It happened before she and I were yet to be boy and girl.
In my memory, that was our first family trip, and also our last. We were basically family, and toured at various attractions. That was when we were in early elementary school—and I already forgot where we went exactly, as it was too long ago.
She and I had fun in the day, and whenever we found anything interesting, we pestered our parents. Maybe the reason for this trip was due to the guilt they felt, since they hardly took care of us. Our parents splurged a lot during that trip, and were a lot more generous than usual, it seemed.
That night, we stayed at a hotel.
That was the first time I stayed out.
Our parents immediately fell asleep, probably because they were tired. I was lying on an unfamiliar pillow, so excited for the first time in my life, and I really couldn’t sleep.
—I’m really bored.
So I thought.
And something seemed to snuggle into my futon.
Poking her head out from the futon with a smile and an index finger on her lips was Acchan, of all people.
I started at Acchan, who said that as though she was a school teacher.
—……What are you doing?
—I’m feeling a little bored.
—I see. Same here. Can’t sleep at all.
So we said, but our parents already fell asleep, and we couldn’t switch on the lights and play. What could we do then?
So I thought, and what flashed in my mind was a really simple idea.
—Oh yeah, shall we go out to play?
—Eh? Go out? Th-that’s not good, right ~……
—We’ll be right soon. They won’t find out.
We were still kids, and so naive in thinking.
Acchan had a better conscience than me, but unfortunately, I used to be the one taking the initiative back then, so Acchan couldn’t argue against me, and agreed.
We cautiously got up to change from our yukatas into our plainclothes, so that our parents wouldn’t find out. We tiptoed out of the room. There was someone at the counter, so we crept beneath the counter, and left the hotel.
Before our eyes was a world we had never seen.
It’s the world of the night I could only see through the window of my apartment.
The sparkling lights caused my heart too to flutter, as though the game character I controlled had entered a new map. I really had the urge to go around.
The world continues to revolve even when I sleep—that’s what I often thought when I laid on the bed.
What kind of world was that exactly? What lies beyond there? What are the people like there? And why was it that we usually couldn’t see such a world?
And the world I always fantasized was right before my eyes.
My heart felt ticklish, and I had the urge to run towards the world before me, but my arm was tugged.
I turned back, and found Acchan looking restlessly, her shoulders shriveled.
—Are you scared?
—Let’s go back then.
If Acchan wasn’t willing, I intended to return back to the hotel. I was a hopeless, shitty brat, but I swore since young never to do anything Acchan would hate.
But Acchan adamantly shook her head.
—I’ll be fine…with you around, Kokkun.
And as I saw Acchan smile with an adamant look. I didn’t know what name I called when I was faced with the fluttery feelings inside me.
We started our adventures on the night streets.
Of course, we never entered any shop. The adventure here was simply us walking down main street and back. For us back then, this adventure was really interesting.
We met an uncle who gave us sweets, saying ‘eat up and hurry home now’, hid ourselves when we bumped into a group of drunks, met some street musicians performance, and we were basically adventurers headed down an unknown dungeon.
We were a little tired, so I spent all the pocket money I had at the vending machine to buy drinks. Acchan and I sat next to each other, on the grove, and looked up at the endless night sky.
—The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?
I already forgot whether it was a full moon or a crescent moon
But that was the first time in my life—that I felt the bright moon hanging in the tall skies was so pretty.
…Well, the rest of the story was self-explanatory.
After that, we were lectured by the police, and our parents lectured us.
In hindsight, we were really lucky that nothing happened to us—and because of that, it remained in my memories as a wonderful one.
The ending to that memory was a promise.
That was so reckless, and disregarding of all consequences…but it remained in my heart till this point—
—If only I can be with you forever, Kokkun.
—Ahh, isn’t this obvious?
As everyone knows, I personally broke this promise.
It’s been about a week since summer vacation started, and it’s late July. It’s a long vacation, but there’s a customary activity looming.
It’s a three days, two night study camp.
It’s not some vacation trip, nor a forest school. It’s just a training camp where us students were locked in a hotel and forced to attend lessons. The only thing interesting about it was simply due to the venue, how expensive the hotel was, that we could enjoy the rather delicious food here—it’s the intel I got from the seniors I interacted with.
Seriously, why did we have to study during summer vacation. That’s why I hate prep schools.
I wanted to grumble, but I had to consider everything else—it’s rare that we had an event, that we got to stay out. How else should I look at this rare opportunity?
“Yo. Irido, you look rather sleepy?”
Mizuto Irido stood at the school gate, the gathering point, and groaned with an unprecedented deep voice.
“My biological clock…got ruined by summer vacation …”
“Ahhh…a night owl? It’s amazing that you woke up.”
“…I was…hammered awake …”
“By your mom?”
Irido’s eyes were still tussling against the sleep demon, and stared blankly at a girl not too far away, chatting with her friends.
The long black hair dazzling under the morning sun was accompanied by an intellectual look completely opposite to Irido. Obviously, that’s Yume Irido.
I quickly scanned around, and whispered to Irido.
“(Does Irido-san wake you up every morning …?)”
Irido denied with a displeased look. He didn’t really deny my question outright though.
So you mean she does occasionally wake you up?
So you mean she does occasionally wake you up!!!??
I hurriedly covered my mouth. That’s quite the powerful jab early in the morning! These two are already husband and wife, right!?
“It’s time~! All students, please board the board, ~!”
I was still trying to suppress the turbulent emotions inside me, and the teacher leading us called out.
The local hotels in Kyoto were always booked all year long, so our study camp was moved to another prefecture. I heard it was a hotel in Shiga Prefecture, where we could see Lake Biwa. That’s the number 2 spot all Kyoto kids would want to visit (Number 1 is Mount Hiei), but now that I think about it, there’s nothing unique—
That would be our trip though.
What stories would await us over the three days and two nights starting today…?
I boarded the bus alongside Irido, and quietly made up my mind.
I’d find the opportunity in this camp to get the Iridos together, alone.
I would definitely get these two restless people to have an indecent mood to them!
This study camp was simply a boring one where we would have lessons in the hotel, but in fact, the first year study camp wasn’t actually that harsh.
They weren’t exactly very strict with the students, and we got relatively more free time. I heard that starting in our second year, we would have an exam on the last day, but the first years wouldn’t. I guess it’s because the school wanted the first years to get used to a camp.
The only thing inconvenient about this was that our phones would be confiscated. The school never actually forbade bringing them, but they would be confiscated once brought. I heard it’s because there were a lot of students who brought their phones in, and it’s a measure for us to contact our parents in case of emergency.
We arrived at the hotel in the day, quickly went to the rooms we were assigned to, put our belongings down, and looked out through the guest room window to see Lake Biwa stretched to the horizon. Speaking of which, the lake at night would make for a really nice scene…
“What do we do next?”
My roommate, Irido, looked much better after he had a nap on the bus. He frisked out a book as he asked me. The guys who got ways to kill time other than phones and games really had it easy.
“We’ll have lunch at the canteen, and then the familiar places. Anyway, pack your book first.”
This guy would probably spend all his free time reading if I let him be. If I didn’t drag him out, he’s not going to entertain alone time with Irido-san.
Irido looked displeased as he put the book into his bag, and we left the room. The canteen—a restaurant, was on the first floor
I looked down, saw the carpet that muffled the footsteps, and looked up at the lights on the ceiling,
“Guess the high school fees had to go somewhere. How rich is our school anyway?”
“I don’t have to spend a single cent though.”
“Don’t act so uppity in front of others, you. It’s a heavy blow for us folks.”
The moment we took the elevator and arrived on the first floor.
“You’re here ~~~~~~!!Mizuto-kun~~~~~~!!”
A girl leapt towards Irido, making an embarrassing voice.
“Woargh” Irido tumbled, but he managed to catch her.
“Higashira? What happened? Why the crying face?”
“Uu, uuu…! I see unfamiliar faces on the bus and in the guest room! I’m so worried …”
“Aren’t they your classmates?”
“Do you remember the names and faces of your classmates, Mizuto-kun?”
Isana Higashira continued to pester and yap at Irido, and I gave her a hostile glare.
“Woah ~, the frivolous guy is giving me a scary look ~. Save me Mizuto-kun ~.”
Higashira said this, and ducked behind Irido.
She’s completely addicted to this game, huh…! I’ll shoo you away from Irido one day!
Higashira evaded my glare attack by looking aside, and looked up at Irido, giving a calculated look as though nothing had happened.
“Mizuto-kun, Mizuto-kun. Did you see? There’s a game center in the basement of this hotel. Shall we go there to play at night?”
“Games? I never actually played them though…”
“Please…I’ll suffer if I stay in my room…”
“Are you a dad on bad terms with your family or something?”
A game center, huh….I did investigate the game center before. It’s an added facility to the hotel, but it really had quite the variety, like UFO catching and racing games, music games, dance, and there’s a lot of mainstream ones—
“—Not a bad idea.”
“Hm? I’m not talking to you.”
“Just saying that if you want to avoid some people, how about you get Irido-san to join in? She doesn’t seem like one to play such games either. Maybe it’s a rare opportunity for you to beat her.”
“You’re insulting me, right!?…But I can think about it.”
Mmmm, Higashira murmured. Ha, she’s easy to deal with.
“But but, aren’t Yume-san and her friends very busy now …?”
“Try asking her then.”
It’s rare that Irido gave me an assist.
“She might not look that way, but she dotes on you.”
“…From you of all people?”
Irido looked surprised. Seriously, you’re the one who dotes on Higashira most. Do you not have any self awareness?
We had classes, food, had a bath in our rooms, and Irido disappeared.
It’s about time for us to visit the game center, so where did he go?
I wore my gym jumper in place of my nightwear, and went to the corridor. This was the level where the boys would be staying, but I could hear some faint female voices in some room. They’re really enjoying their youth huh, not bad not bad.
Naturally, Irido couldn’t mix around with such people.
I carelessly scanned the corridor, didn’t notice Irido—so he went to the basement. If he’s not at the lounge on the first floor, then…
Once I thought of it, I couldn’t calm down, so I anxiously took the elevator up. Yes, I was headed to the girls’ floor.
I poked my head out of the opened doors, saw that there was no patrolling teacher, and crept into the elevator hall silently.
There’s no need for me to do a perverted act—of putting my ear at the wall to check on the rooms.
I heard Irido’s voice from deep down the corridor.
Everything was within expectations, but was this joy or pain? I cautiously hid my footsteps, and went towards the direction where Irido’s voice came from.
After all, Irido-san was on this floor, and Isana Higashira. Since Irido went to meet while I was in the bath…what was—
I gasped the moment I heard a crisp sound. This voice was …!
I suppressed my agitated emotions with all I got, and discreetly looked around the corner.
There were two people seated on two chairs in the lounge, facing each other.
Mizuto Irido—and Yume Irido.
I clenched my fists silently. Alright, have at it, Higashira!
“——leave it to me.”
They hushed their voices, and I couldn’t hear what they were talking about exactly. This gave me enough room to imagine however.
They’re having a date alone, with nobody around, in a hotel at night. There’s no way they could refute the rumors ~! They’re clearly meeting up to negotiate ~!
Maybe the negotiations were done, for they soon stood up, and went in opposite directions. Once I saw Irido head towards me, I hurriedly left the scene and returned to my room.
I barely managed to pace my breathing, and Irido arrived at the room.
“—Yo. Where did you go?”
I said it quite naturally, so naturally that it scared me…not to boast, but I really can disguise myself. Really.
“Just a little thirsty.”
Irido wasn’t a simple cookie either, and he waved the coffee can in his right hand unflinchingly, still maintaining a stoic look.
He didn’t have it just now, right? Did he buy it on the way back? So that’s to hide the fact that he met Irido-san. Kukukuku!
Of course, I didn’t poke through his lie. It might be more interesting to keep it going.
I looked at the digital clock next to my bed,
“It’s about time to meet up with Higashira, right? You sure you don’t have to bathe?”
“I’ll bath later. If I do so now, maybe I’ll have to do it again later.”
What do you mean?
“Let’s hurry. Higashira might have left earlier. You’re definitely coming along anyway, right?”
Irido and I arrived at the basement. The game center located there was so well equipped, I had to wonder if it’s actually a hotel facility. It’s very packed at this point, because of the other Rokurou students living here.
The moment we went downstairs, I saw a girl in a red jumper, scampering over like she’s some large dog.
It’s Isana Higashira. She clearly wants to hug Irido again.
No can do. I stood between them like a bodyguard, and Higashira braked the moment she saw this, glaring at me intently.
“…You’re a nuisance!”
“I’m being a nuisance to you.”
Higashira made a strange snort and tried to break through the defenses. I spread my arms wide to block her body. De—fense! De—fense!!
“Stop it, you idiot!”
Suddenly, I got kicked in the ass.
The strong kick was unbefitting the small foot. There’s no doubt—I cupped the damaged part as I turned around to glare at the shorty girl.
“Minami! You idiot!! What are you doing anyway!!?”
“Don’t insult me now! It’s your fault for bullying Higashira-san, you know?”
Akatsuki Minami, dressed in a loose shirt, turned her head around as she said so.
I knew very well why she always wore a loose jumper. She still had pitiful hopes about her own height. I wanted to retort and expose it to everyone, but a pretty girl with black hair showed up. Irido-san too was dressed in her jumper.
“You can’t be kicking people suddenly, Akatsuki-san.”
“This guy’s fine though, Yume-chan! He’s the type to remain unhurt no matter how I kick him”
“You should at least stomp on him instead.”
“This guy’s already used to get his feet stomped!”
Like hell I’m used to it. And Irido-san, please abstain from violence and tell her off a bit, will ya?
Higashira hid behind Irido, and stuck her tongue out.
“Serves you right. Everyone in this world is my buddy.”
“An enemy of the world? I never recognized you to begin with …!”
“Can you two stop arguing with me in the middle?”
Anyway, the five of us were participating in this game center activity.
We never got that Akatsuki to join in, but she definitely would show up whenever Irido-san was around. I expected that much at least.
The five of us moved to the game center; Akatsuki and I exchanged looks…she’s clearly planning something.
I pretended not to notice Akatsuki’s mysterious look, and chatted with Irido.
“Have you been to a game center before, Irido?”
“Nope…never really been there.”
“What about you, Irido-san?”
Neither of them said that it’s their first time at such a place.
These two really couldn’t hide at all, huh? To think that they kept this a secret from their parents till this point.
Akatsuki hopped into the game center.
“So so, what are we playing~? Higashira-san, you have games you’re good at, right?”
“Feels like you’re hinting that I’m an introverted otaku?”
“I’m clearly saying that you’re an introverted otaku.”
“I’m bad at playing fighting games…usually I play single player, like music games …”
“Hoho~, not bad. Shall we play that then?”
Akatsuki said as she pointed at a dancing game. It’s the kind where we had to step on the controller along with the music.
I see. While a fighting game is beneficial to skilled and experienced players, such games are more balanced. Strangely, no matter how good a player’s athleticism is, even an idiot at them can be a music expert—this might be a good choice instead.
I then suggested.
“A game alone is kinda boring. How about a penalty game too?”
Akatsuki was the first to be sceptical about my words. The thing about childhood friends is that I managed to catch her idea. I did say that on purpose, somewhat—she’s only acting sceptical, but she wanted me to continue. We had a mutual benefit.
“Yep, a penalty game. Nothing suspicious though. Let’s see…”
What kind of penalty game would be better? I couldn’t choose one so annoyingly unacceptable, but I needed one to pair the Iridos together…
Of all people to suggest this, it was somehow Irido-san.
Everyone present looked towards Irido-san, and she frantically explained.
“Ah, erm, you see…I think! Since we’re all gathered here, nobody actually calls each other by endearing nicknames, right?”
…Well, of course. Even us childhood friends addressed each other by family names.
“What’s with this orientation-like penalty game?”
“Wh-what!? You never went to one anyway!”
“I think that can work?”
Higashira tilted her head, saying.
“I always call Mizuto-kun as ‘Mizuto-kun’, but Mizuto-kun would call me by my name. I’ll use this chance to have Mizuto-kun call me ‘Icchan’!”
“That’s not a penalty, that’s a reward….anyway, if we’re changing how we address each other, that’s beyond what a penalty game should have.”
“We’ll have a time limit then!”
Akatsuki suddenly spoke up, as though she was aiming for this chance.
“Two losers have to call each other by nickname during this camp. How about that!? It’s not going to cause actual hurt, and it should work as a punishment.”
Irido silently scanned the faces of everyone present,
“…Alright, let’s do this.”
Akatsuki licked her lips, and I made a guts pose in the bottom of my heart. Things were going so laughably well. I just needed the Iridos to get the penalty, and it’s a great victory …!
To be honest, I did have experience playing this game, and Akatsuki too was the same. In other words, it’s a stone cold fact that we’d be ranked top. It’s obvious that the Iridos would be bad at this, and very likely would play the penalty game. Now, as for whatever doubts I may have, it’d be how would Akatsuki try to mess things up …
“Let’s have Higashira-san lead us off then~.”
“Eh, me first? There are two of them though…”
The two dancing machines in the game center were placed side by side. Nobody else was queuing, so two could play at the same time.
“Just a demo then. You seem like this is the game you’re best at, Higashira-san. We’ll see how it goes then.”
“In that case…”
Akatsuki managed to fool Higashira onto the game with her sweet talk. What’s she planning? Should I get in her way—
While I was feeling hesitant, the music started playing.
Higashira looked at the symbols on the monitor before her, and jumped about.
It’s obvious that her movements were slow, but games really shouldn’t be associated with athleticism. She made few mistakes, and she should be able to rank higher than the Iridos, who had no experience at all—
Before I knew it, Akatsuki went before Higashira, who was dancing away.
“Your boobs are really juggling ~.”、
I immediately darted over to Irido, stood behind him, and covered his eye with my hand. I never realized there was such a trap in this game…! I got to protect Irido’s eyes!
While I covered the left, Irido’s right eye was completely covered by another. Not my hand, but Irido-san.
“…Oy, I can’t see.”
“Good that you can’t see!” “You don’t need to see it!”
Well, Irido-san’s so adorable. She clearly didn’t want him to look at other women’s bodies. It seemed I didn’t need to act at this point!
The moment I moved my hand away from his left eye, Irido-san hastily covered his left eye. At this point, they clearly were acting like the good ol’ ‘guess who’. Hmm…no need for me to be here.
“Stop adding sound effects ~~~~~~!!”
Uh oh, this is bad. While I was trying to salvage the situation, Higashira’s starting to make mistakes.
Ugh…so that’s how it was. Akatsuki wanted Irido and Higashira to take the penalty! That’s why she’s obstructing…! Damn! If I didn’t have the Iridos to go all ‘guess who’…!
Higashira managed to finish the song in the end, but she covered her breasts with both hands, and got off the machine.
“Uuu…I’m never playing this game again…”
“You’re never going to play any sports if you say that. Oh yeah! I’ll just burst your breasts here!”
“Please don’t say something so scary with a terrifying look!”
Higashira darted behind Irido, and shivered. Irido patted her head to console her.
“Stop it, Minami-san. Don’t rob her of her one good point.”
“Mizuto-kun…am I just a woman who only has big breasts…?’
“Well, you said that yourself.”
“I think so.”
That happened? You can’t complain about getting pinched then.
Akatsuki hurriedly dismissed it, and Irido-san stared at her face intently.
“Up next is Akatsuki-san and Kawanami-kun.”
“I feel that I’ll get sound effects too. Better to get you two to go first.”
“I’m not a monster who’ll add sound effects to bouncing boobs!”
“I heard that already, Higashira—!”
I backhanded and grabbed the beast (shorty flatchest) who wanted to leap at Higashira, and dragged her up the machine.
Since Higashira had such a score, the battle would be decided by whether the Iridos could beat Higashira’s score. It’s not a bad option for us to have a little warmup until then.
“(…Don’t make any mistake.)”
“(Same to you.)”
We stood on our platforms, muttering so.
Well, no need to worry, there’s no way we couldn’t surpass Higashira’s horrible score unless we had a brain freeze or something.
The song started.
We started dancing with the rhythm skilly, no mistakes.
“Ohh~, you two are doing well.”
I heard Higashira’s leisurely voice behind me. It’s expected. We often spent time at the game center when we were younger, and we’re already experienced in such games—hm?
I couldn’t hear the Iridos.
And that’s not all. They should have been behind me, but they vanished along with their presence. Where did they go?
And this answer actually entered my sight.
Behind the monitor, before the dancing machine. Mizuto appeared, dragging Irido-san by the hand.
“Wait, what are you—”
“I said, leave it to me.”
While I focused my attention on them, at that moment—
“Nnnyaaa!?” “Ahh!?” “Whoa!?”
Irido-san was shocked, Akatsuki shrieked, and nearly puked out blood.
Why…did…he just…grab…the……shoulder……wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha— wha——————eh?
What…was I doing?
By the time I realized it, I saw the blinking word ‘retired’ on the monitor.
As for the Iridos, Irido-san’s face was a little red, but they had pulled a meter distance away from each other.
It felt as though this time flew by.
Did I space out that long because I was overly emotional?
I heard this little blurt, turned back, and found there was the same ‘Retire’ on the monitor next to mine.
Akatsuki and I forfeited?
So in other words…we’re ranked below Higashira…?
I looked back at this laughter, and saw Higashira give a weird, lewd smile.
I heard laughter from elsewhere, turned around, and saw the Iridos smiling away.
What, just…? Happened?
“The two lowest ranked have to take the punishment—”
The Iridos repeated, got us off the stage, and boarded the platform.
They weren’t really skilled at it—but they managed to finish it anyway.
And so, the two people chosen to take the punishment were decided.
Irido-san smiled and Akatsuki and me.
“You two set up the rules—no complains here, right?”