I can say now that I was young and foolish, but I had an existence called a boyfriend between my second and third years of middle school.
This relationship came to its end due to many various factors, but if I had to mention the most direct of them all, I could answer that immediately.
Yes, I had new friends. That was the start of the honkai.
He and I were in a world of our own, during the three months since the start of our eighth grade’s summer vacation. It was a locked world I thoroughly enjoyed myself with, was at my happiest, and never allowed anyone else in. However, I personally broke it.
I would say, many times over.
I didn’t think it was a wrong decision.
If I didn’t have friends, we’d be lovers until now. We might continue in our little world of two, milking this relationship, without a care in the world. For me, who had seen the world beyond love, it was a little unhealthy.
If our relationship was a little healthier, just a bit.
If I, or him, could be a little more accepting of those other than ourselves, if we had lived in a wider world.
—If we hadn’t been jealous of each other—
…At this point, it’s all crying over spilled milk.
But I already knew—both to be the one jealous, and to be the one on the receiving end of the jealousy.
At the very least, I could use this lesson.
I could then affirm the significance of this black history to me and console myself—even though it’s worthless at this point.
“—Higashira-san, you made a calculation mistake here.”
“Eh? …ah, that’s true.”
“Don’t skip the checking just because you think it’s a hassle. And don’t sleep during the exam just because you finish answering.”
Higashira-san looked annoyed as she blew into the straw, causing lots of bubbles in the orange juice.
It’s a study meet for the first semester end-of-terms.
The members present were me, Higashira-san, and—
Akatsuki-san was seated opposite me, staring intently at Higashira-san and me.
She continued to fiddle with the straw in her cup, but there’s just little ice scraps in there.
If I remembered correctly, she never flipped a single page of her textbook ever since the study meet began. Akatsuki-san managed to eke into the top 50 during the last exams, and I didn’t really have anything to teach her. That’s why I focused on teaching Higashira-san, but….
“Akatsuki-san…? There’s no drink in the cup, you know…?”
“Hm~? Ah, really ~”
“…Say, is there something you want to ask…?”
“No no, nothing at all, you know~? I’m fine I’m fine. Nothing at all~”
“I’ll get some drinks then, what do you want?” Akatsuki-san asked for our requests, went to the drinks bar, and I saw that little back leave.
“What is it, Yume-san? You got a tummyache?”
“No…I just feel that she’s acting weird…”
She didn’t look any different from usual, and was still the usual lively Akatsuki Minami.
But I could sense something a little rigid—thorny within her.
When did I feel this mood before …?
While I was feeling nonplussed, Higashira-san next to me took out her phone.
“Phew~, rest rest.”
“I’m confiscating that.”
“Ahhh—!? That’s the lifeline of a high school girl—!”
No gaming until we’re done with studying.
The next day.
“Yume-chan, let’s go to the toilet~!”
First period ended, Akatsuki-san came to my seat, and said with a grin.
There’s no need to be so loud. So I thought, but my little stepbrother was already immersed in the world of books. Well, whatever, we’re living together. There’s no need to be discreet about going to the toilet.
“Yeah, I feel like going too.”
Back in middle school, I couldn’t understand why a pack of girls would go to the toilet together, but at this point, I understood.
The girls’ toilet was the only place where we could avoid the boys looking at us.
Ever since I made friends back in ninth grade, I understood that the creatures called girls would discuss so many series in a single day, some involving stuff they wouldn’t want guys to hear, nor anything that should be discussed openly. The half sealed room called the toilet would allow for them to talk as they please.
“—And during gym class~—”
“Yeah, a little ~”
I continued to chat with Akatsuki-san while tidying myself before the mirror out of convenience. I was just chiming in, and it’s amazing that she could discuss one topic after another.
The bell chimed, and the second period started. And once it ended.
“Yume-chan, let’s go to the toilet~!”
Akatsuki-san ran over to me.
W-we already did, right? You haven’t talked enough…?
I wanted to spend more time studying in class…but I couldn’t just refuse Akatsuki-san, so I went along.
“Yeah, a little ~”
And the third period ended.
“Yume-chan, let’s go to the toilet~!”
Three times’ too much already.
I knew she just wanted to chat with me, but that’s way too much. Was Akatsuki-san someone who liked to gather at the toilet…?
“Sorry…I want to study a little…”
I cautiously refused Akatsuki-san as I wanted to revise, and waved my hand at her with a smile.
“Ahh ~, I see, sorry then. It’s fine, it’s fine! Do your best!”
So she said, and went over to where her other friends were.
I observed her for quite a while…but Akatsuki-san didn’t invite anyone else to go to the toilet.
“Something’s wrong with Akatsuki-san.”
That night, I was in my room, speaking into the phone.
On the other end was my little stepbrother, holed up beyond the wall. We decided to communicate through our phones during the night, so that our parents wouldn’t be suspicious..
Mizuto never bothered to disguise his disdain,
“…I thought you would come up with some ridiculous gossip, but that’s it…Minami-san’s never been sane to begin with, right?”
“How’s she insane anyway? More like you’re the weird one, and Higashira-san, and Kawanami-kun.”
“This is the difference in values…”
I hugged my pillow, trying to form words out of the dissonance I felt.
“I guessed it happened since the start of our revision. She’s strangely clingy ever since then…”
“Hasn’t she always been clingy to you?”
“Not at all! It’s completely different!”
“I don’t understand.”
I could practically imagine Mizuto frowning the moment he said so.
“Anyway, why are you discussing this with me?”
“Isn’t Kawanami-kun like, Akatsuki-san’s childhood friend? I’m wondering if he knows something.”
“So I’m the messenger here? …Well, it’s true that he probably knows something.”
“Of course, right?”
“What is it?”
“No…actually, he’s dying just preparing for the end-of-terms now.”
“I don’t want to occupy his mind with something unnecessary.”
“I see…you’re right.”
It really wasn’t convenient to disturb him…and it’s just a baseless dissonance I felt. There’s no need for me to discuss with them right while they’re revising for an exam.
“But give me a holler if Minami-san gets visibly weird. Like if she calls you in the middle of the night to harass you.”
“…Who’s harassing who?”
“This really is the difference in values…”
Can this guy breathe normally without having to insult me?
I wanted to refute a few words, but I called a few things.
And then, I eased into a smile.
“Now that you mention calling in the middle of the night…speaking of which~, I wonder who~ called every night for a certain period——”
He hung up.
I saw the screen which indicated that ‘called ended’, and showed a victorious smile.
Back then, it’s true that…he started feeling jealous because I had friends, and spent less time with him, maybe? In hindsight, it was really cute.
Akatsuki-san started acting weird right before the revision started——when I started guiding Higashira-san in her revision.
“…How’s that possible?”
I gave a dumbfounded chuckle, and put my phone to recharge.
It’s really pretentious of me to think that Akatsuki-san, who had so many friends, would be jealous just because of me alone.
——Or so I thought.
Ever since then, Akatsuki-san’s actions got increasingly overboard.
“Ah, sorry, sorry.”
Akatsuki-san finally let go of my arm…but after she drank her fill of cold water from the drinks bar, she latched onto my arm again.
“I’ve cooled down already. This should be fine, right?”
That’s not the problem.
I didn’t mean that at all.
I wanted to say that I got everyone to come to this family restaurant to study, but I couldn’t hold a pen.
Was this really the distance friends should have? That’s no different from Mizuto and Higashira-san then…eh? So that’s fine? I was all confused since I had little experience about friendship.
“Hm, I see. Yuri works are getting more popular nowadays. You really are leading the trend, sensei.”
Casually saying so was Isana Higashira, seated directly opposite me on this day.
“But personally, I think it’s better for your relationship to have a slight awkward distance rather than being so clingy.”
“I can’t do that! Yume-chan and I get along so well that we don’t need to gauge our distance!”
Well, it’s true that we’re on good terms.
I was glad that Akatsuki-san could say so.
But despite that, i had a feeling there’s a little difference from what I assumed, compared to what Akatsuki-san assumed——
“But no matter how close you two are, won’t it be annoying to have someone cling onto you like that?”
Those were some careless words.
Higashira-san merely said so without any thought as she sipped the juice through the straw.
But Akatsuki-san and I looked over at Higashira-san’s stoic look in unison.
There were three things I wanted to say.
First, do not say sensitive things like, annoying, in this situation.
Second, do you not have any self awareness of how clingy you are towards Mizuto?
Third, can you not drink away while in this situation?
——But before I could speak up, Akatsuki-san jolted up like a trampoline, and let go of my arm.
“Eh…ehh…? No way, maybe…”
Akatsuki-san looked around like a suspicious person, and shook her arms.
I should follow up on this.
Or so I realized immediately, but I spent too much time hesitating over what I wanted to say.
“Y-Yu-Yume-chan…have I been getting you to go to the toilet with me more often recently …?”
“Eh? Yeah…pretty much…every break.”
“Have I been really clingy towards you recently…?”
“Eh, well…pretty much?”
“Have I been sending more LINE messages…than usual?”
I really didn’t know what’s the definition of usually, but it certainly seemed a lot closer compared to before.
Akatsuki-san showed a somewhat awkward silently, messily stuffed the stationery and textbooks into her bag, and stood up.
“Sorry, Yume-chan! I’ll be going home early today!…I’m really sorry.”
She muttered the rest of her words, and her voice was as loud as a bug.
Akatsuki-san put money on the table, paying for our drinks as well, and hurried out of the family restaurant.
Higashira-san continued to drink her juice, watched Akatsuki-san leave…and slowly said.
“…Did I mess up again?”
“…Looks like it.”
Higashira-san sank further down the seat, and I got her a new cup of juice.
Ever since then, Akatsuki-san was not as clingy as she was before.
Or so I said, but it’s not like she started ignoring me all of a sudden. The next day, we greeted each other, ate together, and went home together like usual—we’re just back to the distance we had before.
And as for how Higashira-san was so blunt at the family restaurant,
“I’m really sorry for yesterday! I went to apologize to Higashira-san too!”
Well, Akatsuki-san brushed it off easily. She also accepted the money for the drinks after she had left it there the previous day.
Everything was back to normal, as though nothing had happened.
But why was it that the hazy dissonance didn’t fade away.
I really wanted to get down to the truth of this matter, but reality wouldn’t allow me to.
The revision for the end-of-terms officially began.
“Yo, number two.”
“…What is it, number one.”
It was night, I was at home, and Mizuto brushed me by as we went past each other, so I answered him with a somewhat harsh voice.
“You look like you have it easy now. Can’t see any eye bags now.”
“I don’t remember having any. Anyway, you had the time to teach Kawanami-kun?”
“Taking it easy is my way of doing things. Don’t mix me up with a certain person who only knows how to work hard.”
“No worries, I shall act based on my on schedule. Don’t mix me up with a certain person who decided to drop points in the spur of the moment.”
We exchanged looks, I went up the stairs, and Mizuto went to the washroom.
…Seriously, couldn’t he be a little more honest, like ‘don’t force the issue like the last time’?
I continued with my revision at an acceptable schedule, all to settle the score against him.
And so, during the end-of-terms.
I challenged the questions in peak condition, not sleep-deprived like I was during the mid-terms—
I stood before the bulletin board displaying the end-of-terms rankings.
I started looking for my name from the bottom, one by one—nope, nope, nope—I couldn’t find my name at all.
And at the very end, I found my name at the top..
“First, Yume Irido”
“Second, Mizuto Irido”
“Yay ~!!” “You got first again ~!!”
My friends around me praised my performance.
And I still was in some disbelief.
My ranking was above his.
The sight of that made me so fluffy…
Even after so much had happened…somewhere in my consciousness, there was a recognition that I couldn’t beat him.
I looked to the side.
I unwittingly looked for him.
And finally, the person I was looking for was standing at the perimeter.
Kawanami-kun stood next to him, smiling while putting a hand on the shoulder as though consoling him.
He however looked a little frustrated as he waved off Kawanami-kun’s hand.
He turned around, and left without saying a while, leaving behind a shrugging Kawanami-kun with a troubled look.
And he—seemed to be walking with bigger steps than before.
…I did it..
I did it—I did it!
I won! I won I won I won …!! I beat him!!
I clenched my fists, suppressing the joy that’s rising from the bottom of my heart.
See, see. You saw, didn’t you …!! I’m not going to be a straggler who’s going to follow behind you forever!!
I drove myself to the brink the last time, and lost, and this time, I won even though I had to teach Higashira-san. It sounded ironic—but it seemed that forcing the issue wasn’t the way to victory.
What about Higashira-san? Did she make it into the top 50 …?
I looked at the rankings again, as I had only looked for my own name just now..
I didn’t see Higashira-san’s name there. I guessed she couldn’t raise her scores this much…she should start aiming for top 50 next time then—
But while I looked at the rankings, I noticed something amiss.
Akatsuki-san, who was ranked for the midterms, didn’t appear on the list.
“Yume-san~~~~!! I passed~~~~!!”
Immediately after the rankings were released, I saw Higashira-san run towards me with her hands raised, script in hand, as though she was protesting.
Higashira-san said as she sniveled,
“Uuu…now I don’t have to spend my summer vacation attending remedials. Thank you very much ~~~!!”
She looked so happy, but were her grades that good?
So I wondered, and peeked at her grades, only to find that they were slightly lower than average.
“…Let’s raise your scores by twenty points on average.”
“Eh?…N-nooo~ I can’t be troubling you all the time ~……”
“Well, well, don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t want to study anymore ~!!”
Higashira-san cried again, but passing by the skin of one’s teeth was truly arduous. I’d think that the first semester’s report wouldn’t look good to her parents.
“Say, Higashira-san. It might be rude for me to say this …”
“Ehh? You want to nag on? Does my face really make me prone to bullying…?”
“If I have to say this, yes.”
“Are you serious!?”
“Nope, your grades are rather poor, but you’re actually attending this school. I think you did work hard for the entrance exams?”
Speaking of which, even though I wasn’t from a famous public school, I really forced myself because I was aiming for the scholarship…Higashira-san probably worked harder than me, all to prepare for the entrance exams—it’s impressive that she passed, given her unconfident personality.
Higashira-san looked down, and crossed her fingers.
“You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to…”
“No…actually, I too experienced that period, I guess…a chuunibyou phase …”
“Back then…I thought that maybe I could get friends I could talk with if I entered a school smart people attend.”
Higashira-san showed a gaudy look, “Ehehe.” and followed with an awkward laugh.
“Back then, I always thought that my lack of chemistry…was due to the surroundings. And then when I first entered school, I realized then ‘Ah, I just have a communication issue’…s-sorry. It’s a really stupid reason…”
“Not at all.”
I immediately shook my head slowly.
“It’s not a stupid reason at all…probably. I understand your feelings too, the desire of hoping that there’s a person out there who understands you.”
“Of course…and this isn’t a mistake.”
“You managed to make it to this school because you worked hard, didn’t you? That’s how you met me, Akatsuki-san, and him, right?”
Higashira-san’s mouth was wide open, and she blinked away—
She then raised her lips, and twitched her body.
“Ehe. Uehehe. Ehehehehe …”
“えへって何だよ!? Don’t get all embarrassed without saying anything! Now I’m embarrassed too!”
I fanned my burning face with my hand, “Eh?” and Higashira-san showed a perturbed look. She’s the embarrassed one. That’s way too fast of a recovery, right!?
“Anyway, it doesn’t look like Minami-san is around?”
“It’s not like we come in a set.”
“Really? I thought you two would appear as a set as often as Mizuto-kun and me.”
“That’s quite a serious case then …”
When did we give such an impression to begin with? Well, for me, if anyone were to ask who my best friend is, I’d say it’s Akatsuki-san.
“Actually, I sent her a LINE message, but she didn’t respond. It’s still unread too …”
“Wait…is she still angry about the fact that I messed up…?”
“I don’t think that’s actually happening. She contacted you, didn’t she?”
“Well, she did…it’s fine, right? Right?”
You’re being too worried—so I wanted to say, but I too was an introverted person, so I could understand her worry. I was always mindful of the mistakes I made in my conversations, and overthink it.
I too wished to meet Akatsuki-san just to check on her—even if it was to check on the situation—
“—What what~? Badmouthing me?”
Higashira-san suddenly squealed and jolted.
Appearing right behind her was Akatsuki-san, of all people.
“Akatsuki-san, where have you been? You didn’t respond to the LINE message I sent.”
“Really? Sorry~, had a tummyache.”
Higashira-san immediately let out a long sigh.
“What, that’s it…I thought …”
“Nothing nothing. Good that it’s nothing at all!”
“Now I’m curious ~”
Akatsuki-san said somewhat mischievously, and latched onto Higashira-san. Akatsuki-san reached her hands towards Higashira-san’s lofty breasts in a perverted manner, and started fondling them.
She’s back to her usual demeanor.
Akatsuki-san probably had enough fun, so she moved away from Higashira-san, and clapped her hands together.
“Oh yeah! I heard about it, Yume-chan! You’re top of our year again? Congrats ~!!”
I tried my best to sound nonchalant as I asked,
“—How did you do for your end-of-terms?”
Akatsuki-san gave a gaudy smile,
“I was a little careless this time. Didn’t fail though.”
“Oh? Do I have company now?”
Higashira-san’s eyes dazzled, and immediately closed in.
“You’ll probably feel a little better, Higashira-san~. I should have let Yume-chan teach me though.”
Akatsuki-san then glanced aside at me,
“Ah, but you don’t have to if you find it a hassle though.”
That was the one moment Akatsuki-san showed an opening.
I saw a little opening in her fortress-like ‘the usual’ retort.
The usual Akatsuki-san would never show such a breach..
Usually, she would wring out an agreement from me without me realizing, and make a promise.
But at this point, she added a failsafe as though she was terrified of something? What? That I would reject her? No, not at all. She unwittingly let her emotions slip, and betrayed the fear in her words.
…Ahh, it’s been a while since I had this thought—
—Thank goodness I could have a boyfriend back in middle school.
I definitely wouldn’t have realized this opening, if not for that particular experience.
“…Not at all.”
I adamantly shook my head.
“There’s nothing troublesome at all. Let’s aim for the top ten during the second semester then, Akatsuki-san.”
“Really? Thanks~! But top ten might be a little too tough~”
Akatsuki-san finally showed her usual smile.
She wouldn’t tell me, no matter how I asked.
In that case, I should grasp what she’s really thinking.
It’s fine—the current me could do that.
After chatting for a while, Higashira-san said.
“I’ll go taunt Mizuto-kun for losing out this time then!”
“Don’t do it. He’ll really get angry.”
“That’s good then! I’ll be off ~!”
Higashira-san immediately vanished towards the library with a whoosh.
She really hadn’t changed that all. She didn’t really have much desire, but she’s so stubborn. Moments ago, she was so tentative and nervous, and the next moment, she could say something unbefitting the mood—maybe she wasn’t one to be honest with her desires, but to do things at her own pace.
Higashira-san left us, and Akatsuki-san glanced up at me, looking all fidgety.
“…Just the two of us left, huh?.”
“Yep. See you tomorrow.”
“You’re so slow!”
Akatsuki-san hammered at my shoulder, smiling, and I too chuckled.
A semester, three months. We used this opportunity to create a conversation pace for ourselves.
Even if we didn’t do anything else, this comfortable time wouldn’t just disappear. Akatsuki-san’s not as useless as him or me. Even when I occasionally acted out of hand, even when I failed, she would clean up my mess, conceal my mistakes, and the next day, she would act though everything was back to normal.
But, because of this.
I felt that I should be the one mustering courage on this day.
“Let’s go home then. Maki-chan and Nasuka-chan have club activities—”
“Hmm!? What what!?”
Akatsuki-san stopped, looking completely shocked as she stared at my face
I made up my mind, and said a line for the first time in my life.
“…Shall we…go for karaoke together…?”
“Ooh~, it’s my first time entering a suite for two.”
“Y-yeah. Me too…”
“Why do you look a little nervous?
Akatsuki-san stood at the entrance of the karaoke suite, teasing me so.
It seemed she was waiting for me to sit down.
I sat on the right edge of the sofa, and Akatsuki-san’s little body sat a seat away from me.
It’s clearly a longer distance compared to when she latched onto my arm at the family restaurant.
In that case, I had to wonder what turmoil Akatsuki-san had in her mind after Higashira-san pointed it out.
And what distracted her to the point where her gardes slid.
—Everything was so obvious.
I took a deep breath.
I wasn’t one for words. I never was able to convey 10% of my words to anyone. Yep, that was why I conveyed the feelings I desired to say most, in the form of a letter.
So I wanted to convey my feelings, my true thoughts, to Akatsuki-san.
I had to act on it.
I mustered my courage, and confessed to Akatsuki-san.
“Actually…I, haven’t actually…sang before anyone else.”
“Really?…Ahh~, I see. It’s either you sing in front of everyone, or a duet with me…well, this does seem to be the situation.”
I tapped the device, and picked the songs I wanted.
Akatsuki-san took the microphone in hand, “Ohhh!” and she called out.
—Back in middle school, I practiced for a group singing competition, because I didn’t want to stand out.
Not because I wanted to improve my singing.
It’s just a means to avoid failure and embarrassing myself. After all, I’d stand out too much if I was horrendous.
I didn’t want to stand out from the crowd.
I hated the idea of not fitting in with everyone.
I would feel ever so restless if I didn’t mix with the crowd.
Being so inferior, useless, clumsy…I really wished that nobody else could hear my singing, if possible.
Ahhh, I experienced this so many times, so, so many times.
Whenever things weren’t going well, or whenever I was anxious, or lonely, I wanted to vent out all my feelings, my existence, to anyone, or even anything.
Yeah, even I…had moments when I wanted to yell out loud.
Whether I was a plain ordinary girl, or an honor student with brains and brawn…I too had moments when I wanted to cast aside all the characters I could portray, and yell in all directions.
In such situations, who would I wish to be by my side?
Mizuto Irido?Isana Higashira?
No…neither of them would feel appropriate.
At such moments, the one I wanted to direct my yell to was—
I eked out the loudest scream I could muster from the depths of my belly, and vented it into the microphone in my hand.
My emotions filled the entire suite.
Those were my regrets, my regret for causing him to apologize to me for no good reason while I was oblivious as to my own jealousy back then..
That was my resolve, the determination never to repeat the mistake after I took off the glasses and let my hair down.
I was not going to convey everything as words.
The lyrics I yelled had nothing to do with my feelings.
But even so, even so…this song was about me exposing my heart completely.
And once the song ended, I wheezed, and my shoulders shook.
My throat ached a little. I usually wouldn’t speak loudly, and I overdid it this time.
But…my head felt completely refreshed, as though it was vacuumed thoroughly ….
I looked towards a dumbfounded Akatsuki-san, and showed a faint smile.
“Akatsuki-sa—ack ack! W-wait a sec …”
“Y-you alright!? Water, here’s water!”
I received water from Akatsuki-san, and gulped it down.
I let out a long sigh, collapsed next to Akatsuki-san like I was a puppet with my strings snapped, and felt a lot more relieved.
“Ye-yes. It’s fine. What’s wrong? Today, you’re…”
“I sang really badly huh.”
The already frozen Akatsuki-san widened her mouth, and I giggled.
“No need to be reserved like usual, you know?”
Akatsuki-san’s face looked ambiguous due to her confusion, but I ignored it, and looked towards the microphone in my hand.
Of course. There’s no way I could have sung well. I never actually sang for real.
If I remained silent and said nothing, Akatsuki-san would surely try to pass off this matter. She should be able to get the mood going even with everyone else around.
“Akatsuki-san, I don’t think friends should hide secrets from each other. It’s expected that everyone has one or two things we don’t want to talk about, no matter who it is, or the relationship…I’ll be worried instead if we really aren’t talking.”
“…Yeah, that’s true.”
I looked at her Akatsuki-san’s face.
“I never saw you sing alone, Akatsuki-san.”
Akatsuki-san always sang with others during karaoke..
As the moodmaker, she was always the first to stand up and ease the atmosphere…but that wouldn’t misdirect me as I would do the same thing as her.
Akatsuki-san didn’t answer, so I continued on,
“I won’t ask you why, since I wouldn’t say if I were in your shoes. But—”
I wanted to show her how Akatsuki Minami was like as an existence to me.
“—But anyway, I showed you my singing voice which I never showed him, or Higashira-san.”
I handed the microphone over to Akatsuki-san.
My intentions were ever so clear.
If I wanted others to open their hearts to me, I had to first open my heart to others.
That was the biggest lesson I learned in my most successful experience in life, and also from the worst failure.
Akatsuki-san looked at the microphone in my outstretched hand for a few seconds.
She looked troubled and speechless, and gave a smile different from usual.
“…That’s unfair of you. It’s no different from a threat.”
“Well it’s fine. If it’s for your sake, Yume-chan.”
Akatsuki-san said quickly without any hesitation—and held the mic.
She stood up, pointed it at her mouth, and turned back to others.
“You said you won’t ask, but I’ll tell you why I won’t sing in front of others.”
Akatsuki-san showed a brazen smile, along with that reverberating voice of hers.
“People will think I’m pretentious—take that for data okay, Yume-chan?”
And the singing she showed was so wonderful—it was breathtaking, like a clear blue sky.
“Pffhaa! Pfahahahahaha!! That’s too terrible, Yume-chan~! You stole someone’s trunks!? A-aren’t you quite a pervert…!? Ahaha!”
“I-I didn’t steal it! I just picked it up! Anyway, I never saw a guy’s underwear before…you’re the same too right, Akatsuki-san!?”
“Ehh~? No no, I do have that guy around. I know when his pubes grew, so his underwear and all is like, still at this time of the year? We do occasionally drop by at each other’s place to wash clothes though.”
“Eh? You mean Kawanami-kun?…eh, that’s the relationship you have?”
“No no no! We used to bathe together, you know? But well, that’s basically up to middle school.”
“Middle school!? Don’t you usually stop at elementary school!? A-are you alright …?”
“Ahh~, well~, everything was fine, except for…well?”
Akatsuki-san showed a mischievous smile. So-so that’s how childhood friends are like…I see…that’s how it is ….
Once we got tired after singing, we extended our time in the suite to chat. The first thing we started off with was to grumble about boys, but maybe it’s because it’s a closed room with only girls, our chat started moving towards a more salacious direction…and before I knew it, I ended up talking about the underwear I would wear to my grave. I-I hoped to keep it a secret…
“Yume-chan, your room’s next to Irido-kun’s right? Did you hear any terrible noises?”
“Well, to put it delicately…AV panting voices?”
“That’s not delicate at all!”
“Ahaha! But well~ back in middle school, I snuck into his house, and—”
Time quickly passed while I listened to Akatsuki-san’s riveting stories.
And when we finally left the suite, the sun had already set, even though the summer days should be longer.
“Woah~, it’s already night. Your family’s fine with this, Yume-chan?”
“Ehh, probably…I told mom, but I’ll be eating dinner, so I have to head back.”
Akatsuki-san said with a sigh, and looked towards the lit streets of the night.
What exactly did she see in her eyes? Today’s memories? Or—
My thoughts were interrupted by a ringtone.
I knew without looking that it was from Mizuto.
I would occasionally ignore his phone calls, but I had to pick it up since I hadn’t reached home even though it was so late—I picked up the call, and put the phone to my ear.
“…Where are you now?”
The already familiar voice seemed a little rigid.
“I went to sing karaoke with Akatsuki-san. We’re heading back now.”
He was the one asking, so what’s with that callous attitude of him.
I didn’t really feel frustrated though, probably because I let loose all the nonsense just now, and merely answered with a chuckle,
“Are you worried about me?”
“Or…you think I’m dating someone?”
Oh, a reaction?
Or so I thought for once.
“I’ll be worried for the other person though.”
“That you might cause trouble for that person instead.”
…Again with the deadpan words.
Usually it would have ended with me completely outraged. But—I looked towards Akatsuki-san next to me.
“…You don’t have to worry.”
“She doesn’t mind if I cause her a little trouble after all.”
Akatsuki-san blinked away once she heard that—nymaa~, and grinned away.
She then latched onto my elbow, and yelled into the phone.
“That’s how it is! Sorry Irido-kun!”
And then, I hung up at this moment, as though it was premeditated.
I looked towards Akatsuki-san’s face.
Akatsuki-san looked at mine.
We stared at each other for seconds—and burst out laughing.
It felt strangely awkward, but we walked home, laughing out loud.
We walked down the street at night.
We’re both in school uniforms, and might be dragged off to counselling.
It’s really not anything funny—but Akatsuki-san surely would figure out something to bail me out again.
“Anyway, what are we doing for summer vacation?”
“Yeah~. Anyway, let’s eliminate the possibility of you getting wooed then!”