There was the emptiness of summer vacation.
I was looking up at the fireworks in the countryside, alone in a deserted shrine.
The world continued to revolve without issues.
Even though I wasn’t there, even though you weren’t here.
It was as if—the past year had been a lie.
I stared at the phone in my hand.
I was sure the radio waves would easily connect me to you.
It was probably easy to do so, just like last year.
But I couldn’t do it.
I felt like you were already too far away for the signal to reach.
—I wish you’d lie to me.
The past year, my time with you.
I didn’t want to know that it was all coming to an end.
Now that each class had decided on its program, preparations for the culture festival began for real.
The class started working on the interior of the Taisho-Romantic café and practiced the menu, and in the meantime, Mizuto and I had been going around as committee members.
In addition to being the conduit between each class and the management, our job at CulFes was to prepare invitations, posters for publicity, and other miscellaneous tasks related to the entire culture festival, such as liaising with local residents. So, even though we had planned this event on our own, we were not able to be involved in the preparations for the class.
“(…How are you doing?)”
While I was quietly working on my laptop, a cool voice suddenly spoke in my ear, and I sat upright.
Upon seeing my reaction, the owner of that whisper—Vice President Suzuri Kurenai-senpai of the student council and CulFes chairperson, chuckled teasingly.
“Senpai…what are you doing all of a sudden…?”
“Excuse me, I was just trying not to be a hindrance.”
That’s a lie. She’s definitely just fooling around.
Kurenai-senpai was called the greatest genius in school history, and even the third-year students had to lower their heads towards her because of her charisma, but she’s actually surprisingly friendly. Maybe it’s because we stood out in our presentation, but I got the feeling that she’s been talking to me especially often…I might be overthinking it though, because she’s pretty much friendly with everyone.
Kurenai-senpai bent down and peered at the PC screen while I was still working..
“So, how’s the test going? Doing well?”
“Oh, yes…I haven’t found any significant bugs so far.”
I was experimenting with the trouble prevention system we had proposed during the presentation.
Some students with distinct features were let loose into the school, and the committee members would find them, take pictures of them, and immediately record them in a database. And then, based on the database, they’ll try to predict the behavior of the students. It’s a game of tag, but it’s a good way to see if the database program actually worked, and without problems.
I wasn’t familiar with a computer, but I was chosen to debug the behavior of the database because we were the ones who suggested doing this database experiment. At a nearby table, Mizuto was silently doing the same work.
Kurenai-senpai looked at the screen and nodded with certainty,
“Yeah, it looks good. Well, I wasn’t worried about it, since Joe prepared the system.”
“That’s our treasurer. He doesn’t have much of a presence, but he’s very capable. He’s good with computers.”
Kurenai-senpai looked back at the boy with a pair of glasses and a dopey look at the end of the long desk in front of the whiteboard, silently tapping away at the keyboard.
When I saw him, I finally remembered. Jouji Haba, the Treasurer.
So she calls him ‘Joe’ because they’re always together. Are they close?
“Do you think we’re close?”
She read my mind!
Kurenai-senpai chuckled again,
“You’re interesting because your face shows what you think. By the way, sorry to say, we’re not man and woman yet.”
“You’re just too sharp, senpai—”
Did she say…’sorry to say’, and ‘yet’?
Eh? She’s kidding, right? That’s how it is?
“Well, who knows?”
Kurenai-senpai gave a cunning leer, closed one eye, “Well, I’ll see you around.” and said as she went off to the other members.
No…what’s the answer? The conclusion?
I can’t help but stare at senpai’s back that was inversely slim and elegant compared to her presence. It’s a very unexpected couple if true, but I felt like she was teasing me…I don’t know!
As I was getting frustrated, “Hey.” someone called out to me,
I turned around and before I knew it, Mizuto was standing next to me.
“That’s the second tab. Aren’t there more typos than usual?”
“Eh…? Hmm, guess you’re right…maybe I was being careless.”
“The UI might be hard to understand for some. Maybe we should make it more overly obvious.”
“Yeah, got it. I’ll get the data and report back.”
Mizuto nodded and went back to his seat.
…Despite his great abilities as usual, Mizuto didn’t seem interested in interacting with the other CulFes members at the moment. He only talked to me, and if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Kurenai-senpai would talk to him a lot.
It’s normal that Mizuto wouldn’t fit in well with the people around him…which was a shame because so many people recognized his talents during the presentation.
“Here, Kokkun. Ahh ♪”
With a sweet voice, a slice of orange was shoved into my mouth, and I savored it.
Akatsuki held the spoon and tilted her head,
“How is it?”
“Hmmmm…I guess it’s a little too sweet, huh?”
“That’s just how I like it!”
“You can’t judge this based on your preferences alone!”
We were tasting the menu we were going to serve for our stall.
Western food during the Taisho era consisted of curry, croquet, and pork cutlets, but this time, we’re restricted from using oil or fire, so the plan was to have a menu of simple snacks like fruit punch that was basically fruit out of a can mixed with soda water, and sandwiches with ham, lettuce, and scrambled eggs fillings that were prepared in advance.
I looked into the fruit punch that Akatsuki had made,
“Isn’t it weird to be eating all these? Like, if we’re talking about a café, shouldn’t we have coffee or tea as our main?”
“I guess that’s true, Kine-san is starting to get obsessed with them. She’s been grinding beans in the home economics room the entire time.”
“From beans…? I guess that’s to be expected from a member of the tea ceremony club, but does coffee count as tea?”
There are people everywhere who are obsessive.
I looked around the classroom. If the concept was going to be about Taisho-Romantic, it’s not good to have bare walls in the classroom, so I thought of putting up a cafe-style wallpaper. However, there are many types, and there’s a huge debate between the wood-grain group and the brick group.
Looking to the front of the classroom, they were discussing the seating arrangements on the blackboard. According to Irido-san’s research, the first cafes in the Taisho era were salons where cultured people gathered. We were still trying to decide whether to style the stall a little closer to that, or keep it as a regular café.
It’s like playing Minecraft in the classroom, which wasn’t really a bad thing, it’s not so bad. Well for me, just like love, it’s more fun to watch from the side than to be a part of it.
While I was legitimately slacking off with a sip of the prototype fruit punch, “Ah!” Akatsuki shouted,
I turned around to see a woman peeking out from the entrance of the classroom.
It was none other than Isana Higashira. She turned her head around and seemed to be looking for someone. Well, it’s obvious who she’s looking for.
We approached Higashira,
“Irido’s not here.”
“H-How did you know?”
“That’s the only reason why you’d come to our class, Higashira-san.”
Higashira straightened her back slightly, and looked over Akatsuki’s head into the classroom.
“Where’s Mizuto-kun…if this continues, I’m sure I’ll be crushed to death by the air of the culture festival!”
“What are you being so confident about? Shouldn’t you be helping with your class preparations?”
“Yeah. How’s your class doing?”
“Fufu…do you think they’ll let me do something?”
In short, she didn’t belong in her class, and came to look for Irido, seeking attention.
I was dumbfounded,
“Irido’s in CulFes. He’s busier than us. Don’t bother him.”
“…I see…too bad, I shouldn’t be troubling…”
Higashira’s shoulders slumped, and she was clearly disappointed. Well, it’s her own fault for being unable to make friends in class. A culture festival’s a great opportunity to get closer to one’s classmates, so she shouldn’t run off.
“Oh yeah, Higashira-san, do you want some fruit punch? I made a sample for the stall.”
“Eh? Is that fine…?”
“Sure, sure! I don’t need his opinion anyway.”
“I guess so.”
“Why are you so bossy only with me?”
Just as Akatsuki was about to invite Higashira into the classroom,
Mizuto Irido showed up on the other side of the corridor, and Higashira turned around like a dog who had found her owner.
Higashira ran up to Irido in a hurry,
“Weren’t you at CulFes?”
“I’m done for the day. Was going to check on the classroom and then come get you.”
“Oh. What a coincidence. I was just starting to feel like I didn’t belong in the classroom, and it was getting unbearable!”
“My bad. I was late picking you up.”
I could see her wagging her tail. She really likes him, huh? It’s like, ever since the confession incident in the classroom, she didn’t care about how others looked at her.
I raised my hand lightly towards Irido,
“Hey, where’s Irido-san?”
“Who knows? Looks like she still has some work to do.”
He sounded disinterested.”Hmm?” I thought.
In the meantime, Irido put his hand on Higashira’s shoulder,
“If you don’t have any work to do, let’s go home together. Library’s closing, so let’s go to my place.”
“Sounds good! I’ll go get my stuff!”
“I’ll follow you.”
He turned away with Higashira, and then, as if remembering, turned back to us.
“See you, Kawanami, Minami-san.”
“Good work, Irido-kun.”
Irido nodded and disappeared into the noisy hallway with Higashira.
After watching him go, I made eye contact with Akatsuki without thinking.
The plan was to shorten the distance between them by involving them in CulFes.
Why did it feel like the distance between them had increased?
As soon as I entered Mizuto-kun’s room, pomf. I put my butt down on the bed and took off my socks.
Mizuto-kun was unfazed by how self-serving I was. He hung up his bag and parka and loosened his tie.
“Fuuu…now the load’s off my shoulders.”
“Culture festival committee member, are you that busy?”
“It’s not much of a job, but the Vice President has been getting involved…she’s so troublesome.”
“Eh? Vice President? As in the student council?”
“Yeah. I’m sure she’s not a bad person, but I just can’t stand her.”
It’s unusual for Mizuto-kun to say something like this. Usually, he wouldn’t look at anyone else other than Yume-san.
“That must have been tough. I’m lively now since I didn’t have any work to do though.”
“Don’t get arrogant. You have so little to do, you might get stressed out.”
“That’s true…I feel guilty that everyone else is working hard….”
“It’s going to be awkward for you to wear a class T-shirt when you haven’t done anything.”
“Woooahhh!? So there’s such a thing after all!? There’s a class t-shirt culture~~~~! I thought we wouldn’t have one because we’re in a prep school~~~!”
“We’re in a prep school, but it’s still a high school. Good thing though that we don’t have to pay because it’s from the class budget.”
“You don’t seem like you’ll like the class T-shirts either, Mizuto-kun?”
“Of course I don’t. It’s basically peer pressure.”
“I understand! I don’t even recognize that I belong to a class!”
“I don’t really care if the shirts make it seem like we’re friends or something…”
Haa, Mizuto-kun sighed quietly. Hmmm…I could see he’s really tired, huh.
“Mizuto-kun, Mizuto-kun, since you are tired, shall I share my energy with you?”
“Over here please.”
I called Mizuto-kun over to the side of the bed and asked him to sit with his back turned before me.
I put my hands on Mizuto-kun’s shoulders and exerted pressure on my fingers.
“…I thought it’d be something. Just a massage though?”
“How does it feel?”
“Doesn’t it bother you that my boobs might hit the back of your head?”
“Talking about that? It’s too late for that now.”
“Hoh hoh. I guess you’re tired of my boobs.”
“You’re right in the sense that I’m tired of this overdone joke.”
Good grief. You’re a man of luxury, aren’t you? Don’t you want to touch them at least once? When I confessed, he said that he didn’t reject me because I wasn’t unattractive.
I obediently rubbed Mizuto-kun’s shoulders, and asked him what I presumed was a suitable topic.
“Mizuto-kun, I heard you’re having a cosplay café at the culture festival.”
I heard from Minami-san, that Mizuto-kun’s presentation was victorious.
Mizuto-kun relaxed his posture,
“I’m not the one doing it. The class I belong to is.”
“I saw your picture~! It looks really good on you, scholar.”
“That stuff is just exhausting. …”
He sounded really tired. I saw that he really didn’t want the attention.
“That’s nice. Seems like it was an interesting presentation. Our class is boring and unmotivated in general.”
“That’s rich coming from you when you’re the least motivated.”
“Well, that’s true. If it was such a cute and adorable cosplay, I’d be interested too~…”
“You? Cosplay? In front of others? Maybe you should understand what you can do and can’t do.”
“I guess it’s completely impossible for me to cosplay in public, especially if I have to serve customers…hmm.”
I should think about it, about what I can and can’t do.
I leaned forward a little and looked into Mizuto-kun’s face from above.
“Hmm?” Mizuto-kun looks up and makes eye contact with me up close.
“Can I try it here, cosplay?”
“Here? …as in, what? We don’t have costumes in this room.”
“No, no, I can just borrow what’s in the closet for a moment.”
“Huh? In the closet?? I’m not letting you, you pervert.”
“I’m not going to touch anything weird! I just need to borrow this! This!”
I said, and pulled on the shirt Mizuto-kun was wearing.
Mizuto-kun looked increasingly skeptical.
“This? …Well, sure, there’s a spare in the closet, but…”
“Okay, I’m going to change…don’t look at me, okay? You better not look.”
“Sorry for being a gentleman, but I really won’t look.”
Mizuto-kun spoke dumbfoundedly as he stood up, pulled out a book he was reading from his bag, returned to the bedside and opened it. I was really a little annoyed by how he acted disinterested. You’re still a high school boy! Why don’t you indulge in the ASMR of a JK changing clothes!
I took off my tie and started to unbutton the shirt.
…Ah, woah, m-my heart’s unexpectedly racing…I guess taking off my clothes next to a boy…back in summer vacation, I dozed so much that I nearly exposed my breasts, and now I’m exposing my bra in Mizuto-kun’s blind spot…it’s rather lewd…fufu…
I pulled out my arms from the sleeves and tossed the shirt aside…ah, on Mizuto-kun’s bed! A girl had her shirt taken off! Ecchi! It’s really ecchi.
If I could, I’d put the bra on there too, but I wasn’t going to…that was close, real close. I could’ve done it if Mizuto-kun was outside the room. Mizuto-kun almost saw me being a dumbass, taking a picture of an empty bed with my boobs exposed.
Now, the skirt. I put my fingers on the zipper hidden within the pleats…
At that moment, a flash of genius hit me.
I glanced at Mizuto-kun, who was really flipping through the pages of his book, paying no attention to me. He’s actually not reading at all, and instead was listening to me. We aren’t in a relationship, but I think I should satisfy a woman’s pride once in a while.
That’s why I went to…
Slip, I slid my hips out of the way and put the zipper close to Mizuto-kun’s ear…
“… Oy. Why are you putting it so close?”
“Huh? …I-I don’t know what you’re talking about~…”
I managed to bluff him, but it seemed I was a little too deliberate.
I took off my skirt, and I was completely in my underwear. Woaahh….I felt a little tempted to strike an erotic pose behind Mizuto-kun, but my self-control barely prevailed. If I’m going to do it, I’d rather do it in a more erotic underwear design.
I put my arms through the sleeves of Mizuto-kun’s shirt that I took.
… As I thought, the sleeves were a little too wide. Ehehe…it’s kinda big♪… Ah, I should be saying such things out loud.
“Ehehe…it’s kinda big♪… ”
He Ignored me!
It’s fine for you to be salty all the time, Mizuto-kun, but you can be sweet to me once in a while, you know?
I fastened the buttons, but I got stuck at the chest. How far should I fasten them…? The first button’s impossible, but I shouldn’t show my bra that easily. Hmmm, it’s hard to tell without a mirror.
I reached into my bag next to the bed for my phone to use as a hand mirror. Right next to where Mizuto-kun was sitting—
Suddenly, Mizuto-kun let out an impatient voice and looked at me.
Yes, he looked at me.
… Did I just enter Mizuto-kun’s sight?
I froze with my hand reaching for my bag and looked down at my chest.
I was just about to use the camera on my phone to check if my underwear was just barely hidden …when I saw the trim of a simple pink bra through the open third button.
I hurriedly clutched at the shirt.
…And when I did, the hem came up this time.
I closed my thighs tightly to hold down the pants.
I-It’s amazing…wh-what’s with this paper-like durability of this equipment? I can only do this in front of someone you are willing to be held by!
“You’re so noisy…didn’t you choose to wear that?”
“B-but…my underwear isn’t very cute today…”
“I’d be more troubled if you wore something too cute.”
I was trying to trouble you!
It’s true that I was rejected, and I’m rooting for you and Yume-san, but I want as many chances as I can to trouble you, Mizuto-kun!
I fastened one more button, found a safe posture, and asked Mizuto-kun again.
“How do you like it?”
I slightly raised my arms extended from the sleeves, and wanted to appeal to his senses.
Now that I have secured the hem length, I tried to loosen the defenses of my thighs.
Mizuto-kun looked at me as though he was watching a news program after he had woken up,
“Well, you’re cute.”
“Oooh!? I got a compliment!”
“I think you’re cute. I just don’t want to say it because you’d get carried away.”
Mizuto-kun said, and turned his attention back to the book.
…Huh? His actions didn’t seem to click with his words.
I approached Mizuto-kun on all fours,
“Erm… wait, is that ‘cute’, perhaps, the ‘cute’ referring to cats and dogs?”
“That’s not what I want! I don’t want you to be like that…I want you to be hornier!”
“You don’t mind if I do?”
Mizuto-kun turned around and looked me in the eye.
Jiiii…he didn’t even move for a second. His eyes just stared intently into mine..
“No…ah, erm…I-I’m not prepared for that…”
When I turned away and retreated, “hmph.” Mizuto-kun sneered, taking me for an idiot.
Huh? … Good-for-nothing?
“That’s the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard! I don’t want to be told by someone who rejects people’s confessions for incomprehensible reasons and keeps ignoring the main course!”
“Don’t call it incomprehensible. You’re right, but.”
Argghh! At this rate, his relationship with Yume-san will never progress!
The preparations for the culture festival progressed steadily.
As the actual event approached, the school atmosphere became increasingly abnormal. It seemed like the place where we studied seriously was becoming more and more colorful and vibrant, and they added color into my feelings.
On this day, we had to make the archway at the entrance, the biggest task of CulFes in a certain sense. We moved the desks out of the conference room that was usually our work space, and spread out cardboard boxes all over the floor to paint.
As we sat on the floor, my waist began to ache. I stretched out my back and decided to go to the restroom for a break.
I informed some girls from the other classes whom I got acquainted with through CulFes work, and left the meeting room.
The school building was so busy that I couldn’t believe it was after school. There were signages for the event hung up in the hallways, and many voices echoed from the classrooms in clusters. Some of the classes were somehow turning into karaoke sessions. The atmosphere seemed strange.
I looked down through the window at the people practicing their dance in the courtyard, and went to the girls toilet nearby. Over there,
“Ah…good work, senpai.”
Suzuki Kurenai-senpai was at the basin.
There was a cosmetic pouch placed on the counter, and a hair iron cord was connected to the wall socket. Maybe she’s doing makeup.
Kurenai-senpai has a somewhat unworldly vibe to her, but I suppose she’s pretty much a normal girl after all…I was surprised by something so obvious, and went into a cubicle to do my business.
When I returned to the sink, I found that senpai was still at the same place. She didn’t seem to be the type who would spend a lot of time applying makeup, but…I washed my hands at the next basin, wondering a little. When I looked in the mirror, I saw that my hair was a little loose after work, and took off the rubber band to retie it.
“Do you want to use it?”
Senpai suddenly reached a comb towards me.
I was a little surprised, but I quickly regained my composure,
“Thank you very much.”
I took the comb.
As I began to comb my own hair, senpai suddenly spoke.
“You seem to be acquainted with the committee.”
“Ah, yes…I’m actually a shy person, but it’s thanks to everyone that I’m able to talk freely.”
“Glad to hear that…hopefully, the other one will be able to fit in better, too.”
“The other one….”
“…You mean Mizuto?”
“Yes yes. Your …, uh, older brother?”
While I wasn’t as repulsed as before, there’s no way I would want to be his little sister again… I can’t go back to calling him ‘onii-chan’ or anything like that again…! I can’t! My heart!
“I’ve been trying to talk to him a lot, to be friends with him, but I’m finding it very difficult to do so.”
“Eh…? E-erm, being friends…?”
I stopped combing, and Kurenai-senpai let out a chuckle,
“As the next head of the student council, of course. An outstanding student of his caliber is really hard to come by.”
“I- is that so?”
T-that shocked me…I thought she was trying to get me to react!
“I can’t help but feel that he’s building a wall around himself, or that he’s not interested in other people…well, I can relate to that feeling…”
“Communication with those around you will make your work easier. Yume-chan, I hope you’ll get him more involved in the circle.”
With that, senpai held out her hand towards me. I had just finished combing my hair.
“Your hair is so beautiful. I envy you.”
Senpai took the comb from me and left the women’s toilet with her cosmetic pouch.
I stared at her back, and recalled what she said.
He’s not interested in other people—well, Mizuto certainly has that kind of vibe to him. I suppose I could empathize with Kurenai-senpai for trying to talk to an unfamiliar kouhai like me.
…Again I was forced to think. That senpai’s very cagey.
Get Mizuto involved in the circle, huh….
I’m sure the guy would be annoyed, but seeing how he always hung out with Higashira-san, it’s not like he hated socializing at all.
I remember him, alone in that deserted shrine, looking up at the night sky.
Was it loneliness? Solitude? It’s like there was something inexplicably engraved in his soul, but that’s not what he wanted.
If that’s the case—if, through this culture festival, he could be freed from that by just a little, I’d think that’s a good thing.
This too must be my job as the older sister. Goodness, I have to take care of him in many ways.
“Yume-chan, are you free?”
Just as I was finishing coloring the archway, a senpai called out to me.
It was Yasuda-senpai. She was a tall girl in her second year, bright and lively, reminding me of Akatsuki-san. She’s a very thoughtful person, and was friendly to me even as a senpai. Incidentally, she is the type of person who calls her friends by their first names 10 minutes after she befriends someone.
“Yes, I’m free…is there something I can help you with …?”
“I’m going to put up posters on the bulletin board, can you help me? I’m having trouble with my legs and feet.”
“Hmmm. That’s fine—”
As I laughed at Yasuda-senpai’s deliberate granny voice, I realized.
This was my chance.
When I turned around, I saw that Mizuto had just gotten out of the coloring process and was heading for the window where he had left his bag. Whoa! He’s gonna head back!
“Uh… well senpai, do you need a guy to help?”
“Yes, but my guys are out…”
I hurried over to Mizuto and tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
He looked back at me with a scowl. I wasn’t going to be intimidated by this at this point though.
“Are you done?”
“I’m done, Just about to leave.”
“I need your help with something. You can stay a little longer, right?”
Mizuto looked at his watch and pretended to be concerned about the time, but I knew that was just a pose. He didn’t have anything in particular to do; he just wanted to go home earlier.
When Mizuto saw that I didn’t show any signs of backing down, he quickly gave up.
“… All right. I finished the work earlier than expected after all.”
“Thanks. Come here.”
I grabbed Mizuto by the elbow, and returned to Yasuda-senpai.
“We’ve got our man. Sorry that he’s thin.”
“Oh, so you’re the little brother I’ve heard so much about. Nice to meet you, I’m Yasuda!”
Smiling, Yasuda-senpai held out her hand.
I thought to myself, this is bad. There’s no way this recluse would shake hands with a senpai he’s never met before. I had to be prepared to follow up on this—
“I’m Irido from class 1-7. It’s nice to meet you, Yasuda-senpai.”
I was quietly surprised at the unexpected sight.
He didn’t smile like Yasuda-senpai, but he said his name back softly enough, and even called her name and shook hands—we’re talking about that Mizuto!
This is the guy who ignored even his relative, Madoka-san while looking all salty…
The unexpected continued.
Yasuda-senpai, who shook hands with him, suddenly put her face close to Mizuto’s.
Ah, airspace invasion!
Mizuto’s personal space has a radius of about 1.5 meters. It’s impossible that he, who looked a little uncomfortable even when queuing at the supermarket checkout counter, wouldn’t mind such a casual approach!
“I’ve heard about this before, but you really do have a cute face when I look up close. I’m sure you’re popular, right~.”
Woargh!? That’s not a good way to tease him, senpai! Mizuto really hates it!
I thought it would be a good idea to start with someone who wouldn’t be disheartened by Mizuto’s callousness, but I didn’t expect her to close the distance so quickly. This might have the opposite effect. Mizuto might become more stubborn—
“That’s not true.”
Mizuto said softly, and showed a faint smile on his face.
He showed a faint smile.
… He showed a faint smile?
“I’m not very talkative, so I barely have any friends. For me, a girlfriend’s a pipe dream (Yume).”
“Eh~? But I’ve heard rumors about you, you know. You’re always with her, and you’re really close.”
“That’s just what people say. She’s one of my few friends. My older sister there can testify.”
They were chatting away.
That Mizuto was chatting cordially.
It was so shocking that Yasuda-senpai said, “That rumored girl’s not the girlfriend, Yume-chan?” When Yasuda-senpai said so, “Well, maybe…” that was the only response I could muster.
It surprised me.
Maybe it’s easier for Mizuto to talk to someone who would talk to him suddenly and forcefully. In hindsight, Higashira-san’s also very aggressive with Mizuto…also, I was very aggressive in talking to him when I first met him…
Since I had mistaken Madoka-san for his first love, I couldn’t trust my analysis at all, but I could say that he had a good first impression on Yasuda-senpai. Senpai’s the mood maker of CulFes, so if she had taken a fancy to him, it was a guarantee that he’d never be alone.
I left the meeting room with a bunch of posters, feeling a little disappointed at how easy it was to succeed. We were going to put up these posters on bulletin boards all over the school.
All the while, Yasuda-senpai was talking to Mizuto incessantly.
“Irido-kun, you got good grades, right? How do you study?”
“I study in a single night. I usually just take notes.”
“Second place in your grade with one night of studying~? Your mind is so different.”
At first, they talked about superficial things using whatever open information she had, but gradually, they started to get into deeper things.
“Hey hey, you’re not blood-related to Yume-chan, right? What did you think of her initially? That you would become a family with such a cute girl!?”
“I was surprised. It was so sudden. After that, we were both too busy getting used to our new lives, so we didn’t do anything perverted.”
“Really~? Well, I guess that’s reality for you.”
She was better at small talk than I was.
I’ve gotten used to it now, but initially, I had trouble answering every time someone asked me about our cohabiting relationship. He’s able to reply without hesitation though.
It’s not that he couldn’t communicate. He just didn’t want to.
When we were dating, his high level of communication skills helped me out so many times. In hindsight, it’s probably not so surprising that he’s able to have a friendly conversation with senpai in their first meeting.
In fact, he started off well when he met mom for the first time…
Since he has the ability, it would have been easy for him if he had the opportunity. If this is the case, I should have given him a chance earlier.
…Hmm? But didn’t Kurenai-senpai say it was ‘very difficult’…?
“A little more to the right~”
“Yes, yes. Okay!”
While I tilted my head in response to this strange feeling that was a thorn in the corner of my head, the one putting up the poster continued without issues.
After two posters were put up, Yasuda-senpai discreetly called out to me.
“(I thought little brother-kun would be hard to get along with since he always leaves so quickly, but he seems like a nice guy though? I didn’t know that. Why does he always leave so quickly?)”
“(The reason he leaves so early is probably because…that girl friend of his is very shy and doesn’t seem to have fit in well with her class when we’re in culture festival mode. …)”
“(You mean he’s staying with her so she doesn’t get lonely? Wow! That’s super sweet! Now I’ve a better impression of him!)”
… I said girl friend, not girlfriend.
Uuu…yeah, everyone would have assumed the same…
“(We’ll have to hurry and release him soon then! Let’s get this done and over with!)”
Mizuto was looking at the screen of his phone while I was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness.
“Good work! See you tomorrow!”
After putting up the posters, I collected my belongings in the conference room and said goodbye to Yasuda-senpai with the other CulFes members.
I peeked at Mizuto’s face as the CulFes members were dispersing one by one.
“Good job, you were able to talk to Yasuda-senpai quite well, weren’t you? I’ve been wondering when you were going to say something rude.”
Mizuto glanced at my face,
“It’s a lot easier, because unlike some people, I didn’t have to mention my likes or dislikes.”
“…Are you sure I’m the only one who talks about such things with you?”
Oh, I see….somehow, I was kinda hopeful.
“I wish I could have recorded that moment of you having small talk. Higashira-san would be laughing if I showed it to her.”
“Don’t. She’s either going to refer back to this event for the rest of my life, or she’s going to keep taunting me about it. Either way, it’s a pain in the ass.”
“Not as much as you.”
“Apparently, you don’t know. You don’t know what happens when a guy with no social skills loses his cool.”
Ah, yes, yes. You’re talking about me, too.
I had a hard time suppressing a grin. He claimed that it wasn’t just me…but this conversation wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t broken up once. I was comfortable with that fact at this point.
“I knew I should have recorded it. You weren’t any better than Higashira-san when you bent down and showed your belly button—”
“Sorry. I need a minute.”
Mizuto waved his phone at me.
It seems he has something urgent to do, and I can’t think of anyone Mizuto would call—
“Yeah. I’m a little later than I said I’d be—”
As he said this, Mizuto tapped at his phone and put it to his ear.
I couldn’t see his sidelong face beneath his hand.
Of course, I couldn’t continue with my earlier side remark.
If he’s late…well, he didn’t have any choice. That’s his priority.
After a while, Mizuto opened his mouth, as if Higashira-san had responded.
I silently watched Mizuto talk to Higashira-san.
It was only for about ten seconds.
“Oh. Yeah, I’ll be right there.”
Mizuto pulled the phone away from his ear and hung up.
Then he turned towards
“See you later. I’m going to make a little detour and then go home.”
“Oh…sure. Don’t be too late. The day’s getting shorter. …”
“Yeah. I know.”
Mizuto said shortly, and walked off at a brisk pace. He was probably going to the library. It had nothing to do with the culture festival, so it would be easier for Higashira-san to spend time there.
If I went home first and waited, I should be able to see Mizuto again soon.
If there’s something we haven’t talked about, we can talk about it then.
It should be, but—
I called out.
Mizuto stopped and only looked back at me.
Why did I stop him?
I didn’t even know why, and I sought out something to say,
“O-our class T-shirts should be here tomorrow. …!”
The sunset shone sideways, tinting Mizuto’s face half red and covering the other half with black shadows.
“I see. Looking forward to it.”
Once he answered so, Mizuto left.
For a short while, I looked down the stairs where Mizuto had disappeared to.
It had been like this for a long time.
We were on bad terms, like it was a cold war. We exchanged barbs, like we were gutting each other—that’s how we always treated each other.
That’s where we were.
That’s how I liked it at this point.
And yet—I wondered why.
It’s the same as always.
I probably preferred that things remained this way.
But—why did I feel a wall between me and Mizuto at this point?