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.
And because of that, I knew that of all the packed events for couples, Christmas, Valentine’s, New year’s, birthdays, and anniversaries, there’s one special event unique only to student couples.
It would happen once every two months, or a month and a half, five times a year. Yep—it’s the ‘pre-exam revision’.
My words here probably got you to think, a revision is an event? Revising before an exam is hell, pain, way too much torture for a couple—I can basically hear your words at my ears. Sorry about that, but anyone who never studied as a dating couple probably would have thought so.
And that’s why.
That thing’s just hell, pain, and a torture.
I remembered that it wasn’t long after we started dating, at the end of the second semester in our eighth grade, before the end-of terms. The prior exam, the midterms, warned us of an imminent danger.
Are you asking if it’s about her discreetly raising my eraser like an offering? That’s a very terrifying thing by itself, but I didn’t know about that back then. We faced a more practical crisis.
Our grades slipped.
It’s not something particularly visible to the naked eye. My average of 80 points dropped to 75, which by definition to me was a decrease. There’s a deeper meaning behind the numbers though; it gave us a huge dose of cold water when our heads were all overheated after we started dating (this overheat lasted for months, but that period in particular was crazy)
It’d be bad if this kept up.
And so, we had a common agreement about the end of terms, and drafted the following strategy.
In summary—we’d only study together in public.
No, don’t study together, you two.
Please hold off with the retorts for now. Middle schoolers who just started dating are creatures who really, really, really lack the ability to make decisions. Do you think such logical works will work on them? The smart way to do it is to use abnormal things to deal with abnormal attitudes.
In any case, all flirting would have to stop until after the exams.
We resolved ourselves, and decided to use a library a little further away to study. Our schoolmates wouldn’t usually go there, and most importantly, that place would force us to be quiet.
Given how often we met at the library during summer vacation, we know that if we hushed our voices at the school library, we got a bit of leeway if we kept our voices down. Thus, no matter how shameless we were as a middle school couple, pardon me, it’s hard for us to chat excitedly at a public place where so many unfamiliar locals were at.
We sat side by side, completely silent, and only the sound of flipped pages and racing pencils echoed in the air.
Now this should be how a revision should be. Everything else was unnecessary. We didn’t need to whisper words to each other, didn’t need to hold back our laughter, didn’t need to jab each other with elbows for no good reason, and didn’t need to touch each other’s little finger while acting like it was unintentional.
But there was a trap hidden there.
We had to resist flirting with each other so openly—and this was a more dangerous situation for us middle schoolers who were dumb and perverts. We didn’t realize that though.
First, it was Ayai who took action.
Ayai passed her book over and muttered so, looking around as though she had woken from a dream. Luckily, no one actually reproached her, but even the softest of voices would be enough to attract attention.
Let’s talk with pens then, so I took mine, but before that, Ayai glanced at me somewhat anxious…and inched her chair towards mine.
Our shoulders touched, and her scent and shampoo’s coming from her hair as they gently caressed my nostrils. I froze up, and Ayai got close, whispering as though she was breathing into my ear.
—…Do you…understand this…?
This voice entered directly into my ears in this silence, and a numbing sensation flashed through my mind.
Everyone was looking at us, at a place where no private chatter allowed, where we couldn’t touch all we liked.
The environment restricted our actions and winds so much, and the voice that was echoed up close seemed a little too stimulating.
Even though we endured till now.
Even though we worked to purge the urge to talk and touch from our consciousness.
I didn’t know if it was out of defiance or something else, but I was in jitters as I looked to my side, and I witnessed that moment.
Ayai turned her eyes elsewhere, and pursed her lips somewhat anxiously.
There were so many ways to ask a question.
We can choose to talk by pen, or by phone. Ayai didn’t have to do the abnormal and whisper at my ear if she just wanted to ask questions.
The lips were slightly glowing pink because of the lip balm, imprinted in the middle of my vision, remaining still.
—…It’s a little difficult, to understand, with the textbook alone.
Either way, this place wouldn’t do. I had to first retreat from here.
—Then…let’s go find some textbooks.
Seriously, middle school couples are just a bunch of idiots.
No matter the time and place, all it took was a moment to get in heat. It’s basically a black mark on humanity, whose biggest characteristic is the intellect.
I supposed the current her and I would have agreed on this point alone.
We’re behind the large bookshelf, and Ayai’s breath was beating onto my lips that were covered with some balm. She showed a bashful smile while trying to hide her embarrassment, and I stared blankly at that face.
—So-sorry…to disturb…you …
—No…Ayai, you’re unexpectedly pervy .
—N-not at all …! …Or maybe, yes.
So Ayai said as she wrapped her arms around my back, and opened her lips slightly.
Seriously, women really could change at the drop of a hat. Just four months ago she was a simpleton girl who didn’t know how kids were born.
I wasn’t any better though. Just four months ago, I didn’t have any interest in girls at all, and at this point, I ended up trapped in such a simple temptation.
The moment Ayai closed her long eyelashes at this moment.
We heard a weak, shrill shriek.
We shivered, turned to look, and spotted a girl who’s probably in third, fourth grade.
The girl’s face was really red, and she stumbled to leave.
Amidst this awkward silence, Ayai’s face ripened as a fruit before me.
I didn’t know who started it, but we pried away from each other, as though nothing had happened.
Ayai’s face was red to the ears, her head lowered as she stammered, not knowing what to say. No, erm, we’re lucky that it’s a little girl who saw us. I couldn’t say though if it’d be a memory she would remember for the rest of her life.
We were doused and regained our sanity, and after much deliberation, I could only say these words.
—……Anyway, let’s go outside for the time being.
Naturally, our grades didn’t improve at all.
Nothing was accomplished aside for such a humiliating memory. If that’s not torture, what is?
The annoying plum rain had passed, and we had to change uniforms. All the students had changed into short-sleeves, but there was a tension completely different from the relatively airy clothes.
There’s no reason to say the reason.
“Higashira—are you okay with your end-of-terms?”
After school, I went to the window at the library as usual, saw Higashira in her short sleeved shirt and sleeveless school vest, enjoying her reading time. That was when I asked a question I was always curious about.
And that big breasted otaku of a girl, staring lecherously at pretty girl illustrations, shivered and froze at that moment.
“…Eh? What did you say?”
“That’s stretching things..”
The way you played the fool, the romcom would have ended in the first half of the first volume.
Higashira cupped her head with both hands, “Uuuuuu” and groaned away.
“I remember I got personal matters today. I’ll be taking my leave—”
“You’re not running away.”
I caught the hopeless student who tried to flee the scene. She continued to flail and resist, so I locked her head and arms from behind with a Nelson hold.
“Owowowowow I give up! I give up~!!”
“It’s not a battle without a KO.”
“A deathmatch!? I-in that case…!”
I thought Higashira had finally given up on resisting, but she suddenly wriggled about, turned her head to direct her eyes at me, looking like she had something to say.
“M-Mizuto-kun…there’s something hard touching my butt here …”
“That’s the phone in my pocket.”
It seemed she was taught by her and Minami-san on how to negotiate, but those moves were useless on me.
I felt Higashira’s resistance start to weaken, so I pinned her to the wall, and put her face by her side.
“So? How’s your revision going?”
“Erm …I don’t think this is a question to be asked during a kabedon …”
“How’s your revision?”
“…I-I haven’t started…”
I closed in on her face as an interrogation, and she answered somewhat tearily, before turning her face aside.
“Y-you say that…but it’s not the exam period yet…”
“You think you can be prepared with just a week of revision? Given your style, you probably spent most of your time reading light novels secretly in class.”
“If you keep failing, you’re going to repeat the year. You sure you want to be my junior?”
“Don’t try to be my kouhai.”
“Hiiiiii! D-don’t say that with such a deep voice! My heart can’t take it, don’t do that!”
Higashira nudged my chest while her face was still red, and so I disengaged the kabedon and sighed.
“I’m saying this for your own good, you know?”
“Mizuto-kun, are you my mom…?”
“If you really become my junior, I can’t help you out when you forget your textbooks.”
“U-uuuu…th-that’ll be troublesome …”
The forgetful girl Isana Higashira muttered softly, looking utterly devastated.
“You say that, but what do I do now…it’s too difficult to graduate from this school…and I was a smarter one back in middle school…”
“You are smart enough, and getting into this school should prove it. It’s just the amount of training left.”
“I’ll hammer into your brain all the knowledge about how to improve your grades.”
Higashira suddenly pursed her lips, looked down innocently, and muttered,
“Am I…going to be filled by you, Mizuto-kun …”
“Enough with that.”
It’s useless to try and escape with another dirty joke.
And so I forced Isana Higashira to come to my house on the following Saturday.
The next day.
“…Not good …”
Sitting in front of me was a man who looked as though it was the end of the world.
That guy messed his hair up in this serious prep school, acting like an anti-establishment activist, and he’s sprawled on my table in despair.
“This isn’t good…the end-of-terms, I’m suffering …”
“I don’t think you’re the type to say that and end up cruising with high scores.”
“Of course, isn’t it!? I barely survived the midterms after I fought for my life!!”
“Given your connections, you could have obtained the real questions. That’s not enough for you to pass?”
“…All the teachers here are vets…they know all our tricks inside out…”
He’s acting like a guy who gained self-confidence after winning a hard-fought battle, only to be faced with an overwhelming power difference against a new enemy that showed up.
“Save me, first in our year! I can only rely on you now!”
“That’s disgusting. Don’t wanna.”
“I’ll pay for anything you want!”
Anything I want, you say?
“I have a very rare limited edition that I want, but the price already skyrocketed online …”
“Guh…! L-look, I said anything, but there’s a limit to that, you know? There is, alright?”
“I can’t find it at the nearby old bookshops…”
“Limit! Think about the limit! Oy!?”
Well, it’s not like I wanted it, but he did buy clothes for me out of his own pocket money. I should figure out something for him, even if it means the OneCoin scam.
But I already agreed with Higashira…it’s troublesome to teach the same exam topics twice over.
Alright, let’s do this.
“Come to my place next Saturday. I’ll teach you everything I have.”
“Thank you very much, master!”
“Who’s your master?”
The most effective way was to teach them both at once.
Higashira and Kawanami hadn’t met, but it should be fine given Kawanami’s exceptional social skills.
And so, Saturday came.
I brought Kawanami, who I agreed to meet outside, to my house.
“Speaking of which, it’s my first time visiting your place. I wasn’t allowed to visit the last time Irido-san was sick.”
“It’s my first time bringing a guy to my place too.”
“You’re making it sound like you brought a girl over.”
“Ahhhh…you think of her as a girl? Man you’re too nice a guy.”
He really had low standards for what constituted a good person. So I get treated like a protagonist just by knowing what Minami-san’s gender is? Not a bad deal.
Anyway, Minami-san wasn’t the only girl I brought back home.
“Anyway, come in. It’s really hot outside.”
“Yep. I’m boiling.”
The July sun was baking. While Kawanami continued to ruffle his shirt collar, I led him in and opened the door.
“Pardon my intrusion…your parents?”
“So they aren’t…anyway, Irido-san’s shoes?”
Kawanami said as he looked at the girls sneakers on the tataki.
Guy’s eyes sure were sharp…but those sneakers weren’t Yume’s.
“Looks like she’s here.”
“Hm? Who’s here?”
While Kawanami was all befuddled and tilted his head, the living room door slid open.
Swaying about was an Indoor long skirt and long black hair. Appearing from the living room was my useless little stepsister Yume Irido.
Yume looked flabbergasted as she stared at Kawanami and I, who stood at the entrance.
“Morning, pardon my intrusion, Irido-san.”
Kawanami waved his hand, but Yume didn’t response to that—
She scampered towards me, grabbed my elbow, and pried me away from Kawanami.
She got me behind the stairs, and started acting all furtively as she reproached me. Déjà vu, I’ve been in this place before, right?
“(Wh-what are you doing!? Why did you bring Kawanami-kun to our house!?)”
“Why, you ask…he asked me to teach him.”
“(Did you already forget that she’s here too…!?)”
“Hm, looks like she made it safely. Worst case scenario, I was thinking if she would wander outside our house and not come in.”
That Higashira certainly grew quite a bit; she’s capable of visiting another person’s home alone.
“It’s troublesome to teach the same thing twice. Isn’t it more effective to teach both at once?”
It’s really an intelligent thought. Even I was impressed by my own idea.
I nodded away, and Yume put her hand on her forehead as though she had a headache.
“(Ahh—I knew it …! He’s such a person after all…!)”
“Seems like I was taken for an idiot. What, you wanna fight?”
“(Anyway! Get Kawanami-kun to your room! I’ll teach Higashira-san—)”
I heard Higashira’s voice from the living room.
“Is Mizuto-kun here ~?Yume-san~?”
“W-wait a sec! Not now—”
And with a crack, the living room door was opened.
Isana Higashira stood at the door, dressed in the clothes that Yume and Minami-san had supposedly chosen for her.
Isana Higashira’s eyes, Kogure Kawanami’s stare.
Met head on, indubitably.
They narrowed their eyes.
They raised their eyebrows.
And they asked, looking completely bewildered.
“……Who are you?”
Ahh bummer…Yume covered her face with both hands…
I was left befuddled.
What’s with the ridiculous atmosphere?
“I’m Isana Higashira, Mizuto-kun’s one friend..”
“I’m Kogure Kawanami, Irido’s best and first friend.”
The two of them were in my living room, glaring at each other, whom they had met for the first time.
To my left, Higashira suddenly grabbed my elbow.
“Mizuto-kun, what’s going on!? Who’s this frivolous guy? It’s a lie, right? I’m your only friend, right, Mizuto-kun!? Right!?”
And to my right, Kawanami, shook my shoulder.
“What’s going on Irido!? Who’s this big breasted girl!? Why’s someone like her here!? Isn’t this your sacred sanctuary with Irido-san!?”
Why did it end up like this?
I never could dream that Higashira, ever the shy person, and Kawanami, the guy who’s friendly to each other, would utterly loathe each other on first sight—so why did it end up like this? I had no idea.
It’s true that Higashira’s personality wouldn’t be too accepting of how Kawanami looked so frivolous, and Kawanami wouldn’t get along with someone like Higashira—
Yume ignored me while I was in this tug-of-war, and appeared to be giving someone a call..
“(Akatsuki-san…! Save us…!!)”
It seemed I couldn’t rely on her, so I sighed reluctantly and struggled to escape the duo.
“Alright, calm down. Looks like there’s a misunderstanding on both sides.”
“Kawanami, she’s Isana Higashira. An acquaintance I met recently, and a friend I get along well with, that’s all.”
“…You know each other recently and you got along well?”
“Higashira, he’s Kogure Kawanami, a guy who calls himself my friend, and keeps harassing me in class, that’s all.”
The eyebrows of Higashira and Kawanami were frowned like a curve, and they stared at each other.
To be honest, I really didn’t know what kind of misunderstanding occurred between the two of them, but either way, I was sure it could be resolved by sorting out the facts.
I guessed my calm explanation was super effective, for they both nodded and gave enlightened looks..
“I see. Mizuto-kun’s stalker.”
“I see. A con artist aiming for Irido.”
“Why did it end up like this!!”
Did these two actually listen to me!?
Higashira immediately pulled my arm right into her chest. My upper arm was buried in those fat lumps of meat, but she didn’t seem to mind as she glared at Kawanami like a watchdog.
“Please don’t come over, Stalker-san. Mizuto-kun’s my friend. I’m not handing him over to anyone!”
“More like you should move your filthy hands away, con artist.”
Kawanami’s eyes were blaring with murderous intent as he glared down and pointed at Higashira’s face.
“What, you think he’s easy to conquer just because he’s an otaku? Too bad for you, Irido’s not that easy to deal with. How about you back off before your ego gets hurt?”
“Guu…! Y-you tore my wound with no regard for human life…!”
“Oh dear! Looks like you got eaten! Why that’s a pity! Too bad I couldn’t see a shameless woman cry for not knowing her own place~~~~~~~~~!!”
“Uu …uuu ~!! Mizuto-kun~~~!!”
Higashira let out a sobbing sound as she hid behind me.
At this point, I could no longer act neutral.
“Sorry, Kawanami, I can’t allow you to bully Higashira anymore.”
“What!? You’re on her side now!?”
“I’m not planning to take sides. I don’t know how she offended you…but I promised Higashira that if she gets bullied, the other party will also have to be bullied.”
“Higashira-san might be moved, but you should at least help her out when she’s bullied instead.”
The vile woman interrupted, but I should just ignore her existence.
“Look, I did dump her, but the guts to confess to me is worthy of respect, not mocking. Kawanami, correct that.”
“Eh…!? Wait. This guy’s really angry …!?”
“Kawanami-kun…I don’t know what you’re so insistent on, but I think you should apologize. For some reason, his boiling point’s really low when it comes to Higashira-san.”
That’s to be expected, right? If my friend got mocked, I should fight fire with more fire. Doesn’t everyone do this?
Despite that, Kawanami hung on with a look of one who took a bitter pill, and finally gave up resisting as he lowered his head in the face of my silent stare.
“…Sorry…I just lost a bit of composure…”
“Hm, what about you, Higashira?”
“Well, I’ll let him off then. On account of his Oddish hairdo.”
“Damn you!! You’re not hurt at all!!”
“…I’m really sorry.”
I looked down at Kawanami, who lowered his head, and decided to let him off. As long as he understood, as long as he did.
“Ah!? Oy, Irido you saw that!? She just stuck her tongue out!”
I heard that, and turned to Higashira, but she was just a timid little animal-like otaku.
And again I looked at Kawanami.
“You shouldn’t be going around spreading rumors …”
“What the heck!? Irido-san, what’s going on!? The Irido I know of is so weird out of a sudden!”
“Wh-who knows…I don’t understand either …”
These guys are ridiculous. Didn’t I say something that’s to be expected?
“We don’t have much time. We should start studying. Open the textbooks.”
“Ehh~? We’re not going to your room, Mizuto-kun~? I wanted to check out the bookshelf there …”
“After the exams.”
I opened Higashira’s textbook on the living room table, and heard Kawanami’s groan behond me.
“Ugh…this is a nightmare …!”
“Kawanami-kun, why are you suffering this much…?”
It was a little chaotic, but we started our revision, as planned.
“It’s better to read deeper, considering how difficult the modern language exams of our school are. Look at these past questions, you can see from the description how—”
“Don’t remember the formula, remember how to use it. You don’t understand because you’re just lazy and want to memorize. Alright, don’t be lazy and get working!”
I didn’t plan on it, but my burden was reduced by half because Yume helped me out a lot. I decided to teach both of them at once, considering the issue of efficiency, but I was really uneasy about whether I could teach both of them, in an area I was unfamiliar with. She really helped me out.
Higashira and Kawanami complained again and again, but given the flawless plan to teach them together, the study group far surpassed my expectations.
“Phew~. I’m tired ……”
Higashira, seated opposite me, sprawled on the table.
Kawanami gave a mocking sneer.
“Huh, giving up so easily? How are you going to be a match for the first ranked Irido?”
“…I think a difference in academic ability should be fine, just like how a height difference has a sense of sacredness.”
“Like hell there is. You need to be on equal terms, right? There’s no hope for a woman who only knows how to hide behind a guy’s back. No way this is the current trend out there.”
Higashira and Kawanami continued to glare at each other, but I stopped bothering. Countless similar scuffles happened beneath my eyes over the past dozens of minutes. I just let them be as long as they didn’t cross the line.
“Let’s take a break. I’ll brew some tea.”
Yume stood up, I too left my seat, and followed her into the kitchen.
Yume rolled her eyes at me.
“…Why are you coming along too?”
“I don’t want to be alone with the two of them.”
“I think it’s worse if they’re alone together …”
Yume looked back. Higashira and Kawanami, still in the living room, were glaring at each other silently.
Yume tilted forward and started looking for the teapot, while I leaned over her, looking for the box of tea in the cupboard above.
“It’s one thing if it’s Higashira-san, but why is Kawanami-kun acting like that too…?”
“Best if you don’t know. Anyway, just don’t do anything carelessly.”
I received the teapot from Yume, and opened the tea box.
“Huh? When exactly have I done anything carelessly?”
“Well I don’t know why Higashira’s acting like that now”
Considering his past words and deeds, I could deduce why Kawanami was acting like that. To put it, it’s somewhat similar to an otaku who misunderstood, like a character he ships doing something completely different from how he interpreted things.
I didn’t know about Higashira’s situation though. She’s usually a timid animal, but I never expected her to be so hostile.
“She probably thought you got taken away. After all, she doesn’t have any friends other than you.”
Yume said as she poured water into the electric kettle, and I put the leaves into the teapot.
“But doesn’t she have you and Minami-san now?”
“That’s because …”
Yume switched off the singing kettle.
“…Understand her a little more. You really haven’t thought enough for her sake.”
“Hmm, that’s rich coming from a woman who’s not gentle enough.”
“Who’re you talking about!?”
I snatched away the kettle Yume raised.
And then, I started pouring hot water into the teapot with the leaves.
“To be honest, why do you have to interfere with Higashira and me? You’re the one who’s overly protective of her. Did you feel similar to her in some way or something?”
“…You might not know this, but it’s common for a person to worry for a friend. It’s true that she has some aspects I’m worried for though …”
“I see. Like?”
“Like a fetish of having someone else put on your socks?”
It probably happened instinctively.
Yume instinctively grabbed my wrist, and my hand shook.
The hot water that was going into the teapot slipped and landed on my fingers holding the teapot.
“So-sorrry! You alright!?”
I hastily put the teapot and kettle aside, and shook my scalded hand.
The fingertip of the index finger was completely red, but well, I could just wash it in water immediately if it’s this bad—
“L-let me have a look!”
And in the blink of an eye, the development happened so quickly, I had no time to think.
The scalded hand was grabbed by Yume, and before I realized it.
—My index finger was in Yume’s mouth.
My thought process was completely interrupted, and as my fingertip was very sensitive due to the scald, it was wrapped by a warm, soft texture. Five seconds passed by the time I realized it was Yume’s tongue wrapped around my finger..
I hastily pulled my finger out, and there was a long trail of drool stretched from the fingertip.
I saw the trail of saliva snap, and rubbed my boiling cheeks even though it wasn’t scalded by the water.
“Wh-what…are you doing…”
“Eh…b-but mom said before this is how I should treat wounds …”
“You don’t lick a finger, you cool it …”
Yume’s mouth was half opened.
Did she just realize that she licked a guy’s finger all over.
‘When exactly have I done anything carelessly’? And she actually said that—
My brain rebooted slowly after such a long lag, for the two voices overwhelmed my capacity.
Kogure Kawanami and Isana Higashira leered away, their hands deliberately covering their mouths, as they stood at the kitchen counter, staring at us.
Those two had been watching each other silently, and said in the exact same tone,
“Irido-san, you’re unexpectedly quite the silent pervert.”
“You look like an honor student, Yume-san, but you’re unexpectedly pervy. huh?”
“Why is this the one moment you two aren’t arguing? I-I was just being careless—!”
Yume blushed as she tried to defend herself, but I ignored her as I washed my scalded finger with water.
I wanted to wash away the saliva along with the pain and scald…but the problem was there we had witnesses. Even though we wanted to act like nothing happened and forget, these two would remind us of our old wounds.
…Well, luckily, these two were the only ones at the scene. If I actually imagined the consequences of her being present—
—Crack, and the sliding window facing the garden was opened.
“Eh?” “Hm?” “Fueh?” “Ah?”
Even the folks starting this ruckus stopped talking as they looked towards the sliding window.
Right at the garden.
Over there was a little animal-like intruder with a ponytail.
“Ya~, Yume-chan♪ I’m here to save you ~♪”
The moment I saw Akatsuki Minami’s smile, sweat flowed profusely down my back.
“Kawanami~, what exactly are you doing here~~? …and I heard someone said Yume-chan is very pervy and so on~~………so what happened?”
Kawanami and I immediately took action.
We abandoned all thoughts of scavenging our cargo, and darted to the living room door empty-handed..
“Did you think——you can run♪”
“—Anyway, Higashira-san and Irido-san aren’t related in any other ways, and they’re just friends on very friendly terms. I see your malicious heart is just filled with corruption. You understand now?”
“…I don’t want to be told that I’m corrupted from someone who’s completely corrupted~”
Minami-san’s little feet stomped on Kawanami’s back while he was sprawled on the floor, pressing down and sinking deeper.
How in the world did such a lightweight cause such noise to begin with…?
Higashira-san sat on my back while I was pinned down next to Kawanami, saying proudly,
“That’s how it is. Mizuto-kun and I are just on better terms than anyone else in the world. Don’t you feel ashamed for being so lovebrained, you frivolous guy? That’s why I can’t stand those joyful characters who don’t understand other people’s hearts.”
“Higashira-san, Higashira-san. That’s not convincing at all when you’re being so close to him like a lover. Get off first.”
Yume tried her best to Higashira off while the latter was completely displeased. It’s summer already, mind if you don’t stick too close? Your breasts are steaming me.
Minami-san turned around, and gave Higashira a reproaching look.
“You too Higashira-, don’t kick up a fuss just because your friend is getting along well with other friends. A girl who’s overly reliant on others can be very annoying too. People will badmouth you, you know?”
“…Mi-Mizuto-kun won’t say such harsh words to me …”
“Who knows? Maybe he said something like ‘That woman’s annoying’ when you don’t know it.”
Higashira gave me a pleading look, so I decided to meet her expectations
“This woman’s annoying.”
Guessed it’s a little too effective. I patted the leaning Higashira on the back to console her.
“And pat my head too …”
“And clean up my snot …”
“And buy me some Häagen-Dazs …”
“You’re not even being overly protective. You’re already her lackey …”
I felt the condescending look from my little stepsister, but this loss didn’t amount to much if I could protect Higashira’s feeble heart.
“…A girl who overly relies on friends will be hated, huh.”
Kawanami suddenly gave a sarcastic sneer as he directed his eyes towards Minami-san.
Minami-san narrowed her eyes, and retaliated with a cold and condescending look.
“……What, you got something to say too?”
“Not at all. It’s all self-explanatory after all.”
Minami-san turned her head aside, and the ponytail behind her head shook like a real horsetail.
“Then…finally, Irido-san, “
Minami-san put her hands on her knees, crouched down, and lowered her head towards me.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Are you excited?”
“Pfft.” I made a strange sound when faced with this fastball
“I’m asking if you got excited when Yume-chan licked your finger? So now this means you’re so excited that you can’t answer, right? Right? Right right right? Right right right right right?”
“A-Akatsuki-san, wait a sec! Please stop! I’m embarrassed to hear it too!”
Minami-san, who was shooed away with all of Yume’s might , just yelled away, “Irido-san you silent pervert~! I know everything~! Why is it always you~!”.
“You’re unexpectedly perverted, Mizuto-kun~”
“Higashira, enough with the baseless words.”
It all happened so suddenly.
Higashira, seated next to me, pulled my hand and put my finger into her mouth.
Everyone was dumbfounded, and so Higashira said with my finger in her mouth.
“Ow aout that? Eeling horny??”
“…Nothing. It feels like I’m licked by a large dog.”
Higashira let go of my finger, and started slapping at my shoulder. Really, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that I was playing with a pet.
I heard this murmur from Kawanami, still prone on the floor.
“Okie.” Kawanami got up in a jiffy. Was he really alright after all the cracking sounds from his back?
I looked up at his face,
“You going back?”
“We can’t study when it’s like this now, right? I’ll take back that yandere girl. Just relax.”
“Who’s the yandere!? You’re the sicko, you pervert—!”
Kawanami carried off Minami-san, who was caught by Yume, in a princess carry. “Woah” “Ooooh” both Yume and Higashira squealed.
Minami-san continued to kick up a fuss, but Kawanami walked out of the living room. Instead, while they walked through the door, Minami-san’s flailing arm hit the wall, and she suffered.
I saw them leave, and Kawanami stood at the entrance, turned towards me—or to be precise, at Higashira next to me.
“You’re Higashira, right? I’ll let you off for today.”
“Why are you acting cool!?”
Minami-san continued to hammer away, but Kawanami remained unfazed as he walked out of the entrance.
Higashira hid behind me, and spat her tongue out at the door.
“That’s my line. There won’t be a next time.”
“At least say that so that he can hear you.”
Higashira turned her head aside…it seemed everyone had people they couldn’t get along with.
Yume slowly folded her arms, and sighed.
“So anyway, what was Kawanami-kun being fussy about…?”
“…So what if you do know?”
Yume turned back towards me in shock, and I realized that I had the slip of the tongue.
I averted my eyes, and nudged Higashira in the back.
“Let’s get back to revising for the exams.”
“Eh!? Didn’t we stop!?”
“Kawanami returned home. There’s nothing stopping you now, right?”
I could sense Yume’s stare from behind, but I played dumb and had Higashira sit before her textbooks and notebooks.
That night, Kawanami called me.
“Sorry for kicking up a fuss at your place.”
“Yeah. Don’t do this again.”
“I can’t be sure of that though. My instincts are telling me that girl Higashira’s a natural enemy of mine.”
It’s really troublesome, especially when these troublemakers always start a ruckus around me.
“…Well, don’t worry about that. I won’t do anything. I’m a ROM (Read-only member) after all. I’m fine being just a bystander.”
“I don’t get you. Are we really that interesting?”
“Interesting, huh…who knows? I’m not going to laugh and clap on the sidelines.”
Minami-san flashed in my mind.
There’s a look of pain when she looked at Kawanami, or talked to him.
And then…there was always a sarcastic sneer on Kawanami’s face.
“I don’t really think it’s possible, but,”
I nearly blurted, hesitated when the words reached my throat—but I still asked anyway.
“—Are you using us to erase any lingering regrets?”
Kawanami immediately concluded so.
I couldn’t see his expression through the phone, but through the phone, I heard the most earnest words from him for the first time since I met him.
“That’s definitely not it. Irido…don’t underestimate me.”
I apologized for my rude question, and hung up.
—There’s something called a Observer’s effect.
It meant that something observed would be affected by an act of observation.
To be honest, it’s a physics lingo and not exactly a commonplace truth—but it’s true that countless people would inadvertently be affected by the thought of ‘how would others look at me’. Like, a child who’s thought as ‘quiet’ will become all the more quieter—or people thought of as a ‘couple’ would want to form such a relationship.
Such looks are really a hassle. It’d be really wonderful if life can be unrestrained by such stares…
I picked up the phone, and sent Higashira a LINE message.
“Are you studying now?”
“I’m studying about how Nobunaga Oda’s actually a girl.”
“There’s so many of them I’m not sure which is the textbook.”
Higashira spammed gleeful emotes, and I sensed my cheeks relaxing a little.