Yume Irido ◆ Pride for the sake of pride
“Starting tomorrow, student council activities will be suspended for a week.”
It was Late October, and with the second semester midterm exams only a week away, Suzuri Kurenai, president of the student council, announced,
“Everyone should work hard at your studies and achieve results befitting of the student council. Incidentally, this student council room can be used for self-study if you request the advisor, which is a small privilege for student council members.”
The student council advisor Arakusa-sensei was sitting in the corner of the room, “Don’t come here too often. It’s too troublesome.” he said dully. Arakusa-sensei would only show up at the student council room with the bare minimum of attendance. According to him “I hate being an advisor because I don’t get paid.” But then,
“Hey, Alexa! Can I come over during lunch?”
“Only if you can find me. Also, I’m Arakusa.”
For some reason, the students (especially Asou-senpai) were really friendly with him. Maybe him being upright about working only for pay made him very popular.
“…Nfufu♪ I’ll. Come. And. Get. You~”
Asou-senpai, who had gotten the okay from Arakusa-sensei, walked over to Hoshibe-senpai, who was playing with his phone while lying on the reception sofa, and sat down next to him.
“Senpai? I want you to teach me how to study for the test again~♪”
Hoshibe-senpai glanced at Asou-senpai as their shoulders turned, and he said,
“Ah? I taught you how to do it before. That’s good enough.”
He put away the phone he’s been playing with and slung his bag over his shoulder,
“See ya. Good luck with your test~.”
He simply walked out of the student council room.
Asou-senpai, left alone on the sofa, remained there while nuzzling against the void,
“…Why can’t you have a little ulterior motive!?”
Once Hoshibe-senpai’s huge body disappeared behind the door, she let out a heartfelt cry.
Master really was Master, given how she wouldn’t let such incidents stop her.
While Asuhain-san sighed in disgust, President Kurenai placed a hand on Master Asou’s shoulder.
“Shall I teach you, Aisa?”
Asou-senpai looked back with a scowl.
“You’re…you’re too smart for me, Suzurin. I won’t be able to understand what you’re saying.”
“I’m sure your average score went up by 15 points the last time.”
“Let’s get something straight! I don’t like you because you’re not cool!”
The President shrugged with a wry smile. They say that the really smart people are good at teaching. I think I’ll ask her to teach me a little.
So I thought, and then I noticed Asuhain-san glancing discreetly at President Kurenai.
I smiled and said.
“Asuhain-san, why don’t you ask her to teach you?”
“What? …N-no, I think it’s meaningless if I don’t do this by myself.”
President Kurenai looked back,
“I think part of your skillset is the ability to ask for help. See, that’s the way Aisa lives.”
“Who says I’m a parasitic Rafflesia of a girl!?”
“Is that what people usually say to you?”
Even so, Asuhain-san’s large eyes were filled with hesitation. They regained composure however, and then she closed them and opened them again.
“…No. I’ll do it myself.”
She then looked towards me, who was sitting opposite her, with a piercing gaze.
“And this time…! Irido-san, I’m going to be above you.”
Her eyes were shining with a serious fighting spirit. She couldn’t lose. This was the one thing she didn’t want to compromise on. Such was the passion in her eyes.
I guess I too looked at Mizuto this way in the past.
Normally, I would have let it slide with an unconcerned answer, but Asuhain-san staked her pride on this battle. With that in mind, I knew I had to give an appropriate answer.
So, for the first time, I faced her fighting spirit head-on.
“Yes. I’ll take you head on.”
Yume Irido ◆ Remote Study Group
Even though I said that, I had a big advantage.
Yes—I had the advantage of living under the same roof as the person who was competing for first place in the same year.
Till this point, we had been studying separately because we were so stubborn, except for the time when we taught Higashira-san and Kawanami-kun.
I remembered. I remembered the sweet moments of our study sessions we had when we were dating. I remembered the times when we couldn’t look at each other’s textbooks and notebooks, and yet enjoyed touching each other’s shoulders, putting our hands on each other’s knees, and enjoying a little body contact!
Naturally, our grades dropped.
But I was no longer the same person as I was before. I was no longer the hothead I used to be, and I learned how to control myself! Right here, right now! I was capable of combining my intelligence that’s ranked top of the school and flirt around in moderation!
—Or so I thought.
“Yo. Are you seeing this?”
“I see you. What’s with the hair?”
“Woah, it looks flat. You look as horrible as an old-fashioned delinquent.”
“Shut up! I’m fresh out of the bath! The hair’s flat too!”
There were four faces on the small smartphone screen, Akatsuki-san, Kawanami-kun, Higashira-san, and Mizuto—that familiar aloof face was on one segment of the quarterly partitioned screen, seemingly eating ice cream with a spoon.
Why are we doing this remotely in the same house?
No, I understood why. We said not to appear at each other’s rooms too often at night, without our parents around. Besides, I couldn’t flirt with Mizuto when Higashira-san, Akatsuki-san and Kawanami-kun were all present.
But! He’s in the next room! Why did he have to be so tiny?
It was the first time I’d ever felt the necessity for either a computer or a tablet.
I held back a sigh as I turned to my quad screen phone,
“Hi all, everything okay? …Huh? Akatsuki-san?”
Akatsuki-san, who was usually so noisy, was quiet for some reason. So I thought, but she appeared to be moving her mouth.
“Akatsuki-san! I can’t hear you!”
Akatsuki-san, who had her hair down as part of her off mode, tilted her head with a troubled frown. She reluctantly reached her hand toward the screen, and the screen started to shake.
“Oy don’t shake don’t shake! You’re a hag from the Showa era! …goodness, I’ve got no choice then. Hang on a sec, I’m going over.”
Kawanami said and switched off the screen. The screen was divided into three, and the three faces of the three became a little larger.
“Don’t they live next to each other? He’s quite the frivolous guy to drop by at a girl’s place at such a late time.”
“I feel sorry for him since he seems quite restless.”
“…What do you mean by that? They’re just next door from each other.”
“In more ways than one.”
Ngh~~…! Guess who’s the restless one here!
…But, wait, if I pretend to have equipment trouble now, won’t Mizuto be forced to come to my room…?
My eyes were drawn to the mute button of the microphone. If I…press this …!
Just as my finger was about to touch the forbidden button, Kawanami-kun entered Akatsuki-san’s screen from the side, looked into the screen and reached out his hand,
“…No, see, you just muted the microphone, you know?”
“Ah, you’re right?”
“You’re really hopeless. You should’ve noticed this basic mistake right away. I brought all my study materials too.”
“Yes yes thank you very much~! If it’s too much trouble, why don’t you study here? I got some space here. The floor that is.”
“There’s plenty of space here, this table for example!”
Here we go, Akatsuki-san said kicking Kawanami-kun out of view, and bringing her face close to the screen again.
“Sorry to cause trouble for everyone! “
“So, Minami-san is with the frivolous guy after all…please, from the bottom of my heart, don’t start forgetting about us here.”
“Him? Start what? “
“What do you mean by what?”
Higashira-san’s obscenity crumbled under Akatsuki-san’s pressure …I couldn’t say that my fears were unfounded…
“Anyway Yume-chan! You’re wearing glasses today!”
“Eh? Ah, yes…I usually wear contacts, but I wear glasses when I study at home.”
“It’s so cute! It certainly does feel like off mode!”
“Akatsuki-san, you look good with your hair down. You look innocent.”
“Hahaha! Thank you!”
While we were praising each other, Mizuto gave a small sigh.
“By the way, Mizuto-kun, you’re wearing glasses too?”
Higashira-san noted. She was right, for Mizuto in the screen was wearing glasses.
The stretching Mizuto clamped up,
“These are blue blocking glasses. I wear them when using the computer.”
“Fueehh~…it looks good on you. Can I take a screenshot?”
“Why not? You’re so cute!”
“It’s kinda creepy.”
At that moment, I thought I saw Mizuto’s eyes move. We didn’t make eye contact, but I had a feeling he saw my face on the screen.
C-creepy. …. It’s true that I was a little creepy when I made you wear glasses and took a lot of pictures! But I couldn’t help it! It’s your fault for being so cool, alright!? (creepy)
“…Let’s stop talking and start our study session.”
I said, seemingly to distract myself from my past disgusting self,
“You can leave anytime if you get tired. Shall we keep an eye out for each other?”
“Okay. Oh, that’s right. Maki-chan and Nasuka-chan might join us in the meantime. Kawanami, stay off the screen!”
“I haven’t told them yet that you live next door! Insensitive! How much of a blockhead can you be?”
“It hurts! Don’t kick me!”
While Kawanami was complaining from off-screen, Higashira-san was getting angry.
“I feel like I’m single when I see people flirting through the screen…”
It’s true. I wished I was in the same room as Mizuto. That’s too despicable, Akatsuki-san!
“Mizuto-kun, can I stay with you sometime?”
“Woah! Why again!?”
“I feel you’re gunning for me. It’s creepy.”
“That’s quite a detailed reason…”
I remained silent in Higashira-san’s shadow. I’m sorry for gunning for him.
Mizuto Irido ◆ Raised through countless experiences
Isana was one of the five windows, rocking slowly and unsteadily like a boat.
Noticing this, I looked up from my math textbook,
“Fuaah…? I’m still awake… haa.”
“Go sleep if you’re sleepy. Nothing goes into your head if you force yourself to study.”
Even the answer was an unintelligible cry. She really was at her limit.
“Woohoo, you’re so kind~!♪”
Maki Sakamizu, Yume’s friend, had joined us midway through the session. I still remembered her.
The energetic looking girl with a short haircut poked a mechanical pencil at her cheekbones,
“You’re always pouting, little brother Irido, so I thought you’d be more aloof, but you’re surprisingly kind, aren’t you? Especially to Higashira-san♪”.
“I’m just overprotective because she’s weak. And I’m not the little brother.”
“I heard that you have the same birthday as Irido-chan. Coincidences do happen, don’t they?”
Saying that lazily and giving a little yawn was a girl with a bob cut…erm, Kanai…ah, yep, Kanai Nasuka. I remember her.
She used her fingers to rub her eyes that looked sleepier than usual,
“I can’t take this~…I think I’m at my limit. I’ll go to bed.”
“Eh? I think we’ll stop for today though. There’s still a week to go!”
Mmm! Sakamizu stretched. Yume showed a wry smile and said,
“You say that, but we’ll run out of time before you know it. Guess we’ll gather tomorrow then.”
“Yes yes. Got it~.”
The windows showing Sakamizu and Kanai disappeared.
On the other hand, Isana was already lying down on her desk in front of the camera.
“Isana, don’t sleep there. Go to bed.”
“Higashira-san? …No good, she can’t hear us.”
Goodness, no choice then…I muted my microphone, picked up my phone and called Isana.
And on the screen, Isana reached to her side with a semi-automatic motion and put the phone to her ear.
“Fuuaahh…hello hello and hello…”
“(—You can’t complain about anything until you go get some sleep on a proper bed now, right?) ”
Midway through my little whisper, Isana looked up with a jolt.
“(Good girl. Just switch off the screen and go to the bed.)”
Looking absolutely sleepy, Isana’s screen disappeared.
Then, I said through my phone.
Click. The call ended.
“There we go.”
“What did you say…”
Yume says, half in fear, half in disgust. Nothing though. I just told her to sleep.
Minami-san puts her chin on her hands and looked at me,
“Irido-kun, aren’t you becoming more and more of a smooth operator? Is it because Higashira-san is too soft?”
“I know what I did would only work on her. Well, it’s the only way to control her practically unpredictable behavior.”
And she’s kinda happy.
“Don’t feed that woman anymore, Irido!”
Appearing by Minami-san’s side was Kawanami, who had been quiet in front of Sakamizu and Kanai.
“She’s getting greedier here! She’s going to start pretending to be your girlfriend when you two aren’t even together!”
“Well, we’ve been through this quite a bit—but I guess it’s fine. Isana isn’t someone who can’t tell the difference between a joke and a serious one. As long as we know what’s going on, it doesn’t matter if people misunderstand.”
“I wonder if that’s really the case…”
Minami-san pushed Kawanami’s face back, muttering in a gloomy tone.
“What about you, Yume-chan, do you feel he has changed ever since he became friends with Higashira-san?”
“Ehh? …hmmm…I don’t know. Maybe he hasn’t changed that much…”
“Eh? Are you saying he’s been a smooth operator since the beginning?”
Yume glanced at the screen, which probably showed my face,
“…I guess so.”
You sure sound like a know-it-all.
I didn’t intend to woo you even in middle school. You just got carried away on your own.
…Otherwise, I wouldn’t be wondering about this.
“Oh? Then tell us, Irido-san! When has he wooed you—!”
“Yes, yes! We’re done for the day! I need to take a bath! See you!”
“Ah, she got away.”
Yume’s screen disappeared. Kawanami then turned to me,
“So, Irido, do you have any idea…”
I hung up the call…doesn’t that voyeur know the meaning of the time word ‘beat the grass and scare the snake’?
Mizuto Irido ◆ Surely the person you like must be
After the remote study session ended, I went down to the living room with my textbook. I hadn’t finished what I wanted to read on this day, so I decided to take a break before continuing.
I boiled water in the electric kettle and brewed tea from a bag. I heard that drinking tea at night could make it difficult to sleep, but I was already a nocturnal creature, and I was never hindered by caffeine.
I sat down on the couch, sipped the hot tea, and waited for a while for my brain to reboot. I then opened my textbook again.
And after a few minutes of flipping through the pages—the living room door opened.
“Oh. There you are.”
Yume showed up in her pajamas. She wasn’t wearing the glasses she wore during the remote study session, and her hair was tied in two knots that hung down her shoulders.
I replied, and Yume turned to leave for the kitchen,
“Are you taking a bath?”
“How about a bath?”
“I’ll bathe in a little while.”
I concentrated on the textbook as I heard water being poured into a cup behind me.
And then, thud, a cup was set down. The footsteps slowly approached.
I finally looked up when she called for me.
Yume leaned against the back of the sofa, peering into my face from the side.
“Can I… study with you here for a while?”
At that moment, various interpretations came to mind..
First, I assumed she wanted to ask me about what I was studying for tests.
The second thought I had was that she wanted to continue with the remote study session that had ended.
And finally, I derived a very simplistic reason, one that was really simple. She just wanted to be with me for no reason, no need, and just as a desire.
“…I don’t mind…”
A great deal of thought was summarized in those three words.
I’m really good at deceiving people.
Yume’s lips eased into a smile in relief,
“I’ll get my textbook.”
She trotted out of the living room, hurried up the stairs, returned to the living room immediately, sat next to me, and spread out her textbooks and stationery on the table.
And so the study session continued.
It wasn’t as lively as before. I merely read the textbook, and Yume solved the problems in her notebook. There were no questions or conversations, just a mechanical pencil racing by, textbooks flipping, and the clock ticking away in this quiet living room.
From time to time, I glanced at Yume’s sidelong face while she glanced at her notebook.
She was no longer as intense as she was during the midterms of our first semester. Her face was calm and serious as she tackled the problem.
—I think the person you like is the sidelong face of the person you’ve seen the most.
Isana’s words repeated in my mind.
I couldn’t help but be aware that at this point, I was following through with that simple definition. I was just looking at her sidelong face, but I felt that I was doing something embarrassing, and I wanted to look away, but just when I thought I was out, I pulled myself back in again.
Well, it is what it is.
I was vexed, and it wasn’t my intention.
…Argh dammit, it’s obvious that even my innermost thoughts were just a shameful deception.
I reinforced my will and turned my attention back to the textbook. It’s not the time to be distracted. That time would come soon after the midterm exams are over—once November starts.
Soon, the short hand of the clock points to 12. I should take a bath soon before it gets cold—so I thought, and was about to close my textbook, only to notice Yume looking at me.
Yume glanced at my face,
“I was just thinking… you have the same face when you study and when you read.”
—I think the person you like is,
Isana’s words came back to me again for some reason.
I came up with various reasons and interpretations in my head, but stopped immediately.
I felt like I’d get hurt if I took the easy way out.
“…I’m reading a book either way, there’s no difference.”
That’s the boring answer I gave.
I’m taking a bath. So I said, and left the living room.
…Was I scared?
Of course not.
After all, there’s no room for failure this time.
Yume Irido ◆The only way to live
The remote study group that became a nightly event was more effective than I expected.
I liked the fact that the sessions were remote. Whenever we met in person, we would end up playing, and couldn’t concentrate as a result, but whenever we met through the phone app, there’s only a limited number of things we could do, and more importantly, we couldn’t use our phones, the biggest distractions to us, while we were on a video call. In my opinion, it was a great success.
I felt like I was in a groove, so one day, I went to the student council room to study after school, and found two students there.
I greeted them modestly, but there was no reply.
It was to be expected, since both of them appeared to be asleep.
One of them was Hoshibe-senpai, whose back was on the sofa, an opened textbook over his face.
The other person was a surprise to me.
Asuhain-san was lying face down on the conference table, dozing off.
I went closer and peered into Asuhain-san’s face. She was sleeping soundly with her cheek against the open notebook. Her face was cute as a kitten’s because of her naturally nice face.
She had a mechanical pencil in her right hand. She had fallen asleep while studying.
I guess she’s tired…student council activities were suspended during test week, so I had been seeing Asuhain-san less frequently. We would pass each other by in the corridor from time to time though, and I could immediately notice how tired she was.
Maybe she’s putting in too much effort. She seemed very enthusiastic about this tests—really, I could see the old me in her.
I took the blanket that Hoshibe-senpai had brought from the reference room next door, and gently draped it over Asuhain-san’s shoulders.
I should let her sleep for a while.
I then quietly hushed my breath and began to study on my own.
…About 20 minutes later…Asuhain-san’s shoulders twitched.
Asuhain-san slowly got up, and the blanket slipped off her shoulders. She momentarily looked down at the blanket on the floor, looking stunned.
I called out to Asuhain-san, whose eyes gradually cleared, and she looked at the notebook she’s been using as a pillow.
“I-I…! Did I fall asleep?”
“Yes. You slept well.”
Asuhain-san picked up the blanket at her feet, her baby face twisted with regret.
“Did you get this…?”
“Yes. You look tired, so I thought I’d let you sleep.”
“…Thank you very much. But… I would have preferred for you to wake me up.”
Asuhain-san looked up at the clock and grimaced in regret.
“I guess it’s only been twenty minutes, or at least, from the time I arrived.”
“That time is invaluable to me. There’s never enough time for me to try and surpass you, to become the head of the cohort.”
I knew the feeling. Back during the midterms of the first semester, I was under pressure to remain at the top, and had to cut down on my sleep…
But this ranking that I treasured like it was my own life wasn’t as important as I thought it was, and Mizuto taught me that by taking the top rank away from me…
“Hey, Asuhain-san… why do you want to beat me so badly?”
I couldn’t help but ask her, as she reminded me of that period back then.
I wanted to remain in first place in order to protect my character as the honor student with the top scores, so in that case, why was Asuhain-san aiming for first place?
“Because it’s the only way.”
Asuhain-san gripped her mechanical pencil again, flipped through his textbook, and answered tersely.
“I’ve always been…small in size, and also weak at arguments. That’s why I couldn’t get back at the boys who made fun of my name, calling me a slut… So all I could do was study. The only way I could get back at them was to study…”
Asuhain-san’s hand didn’t stop as she kept talking. She acted as though it was natural.
“Even when I got 100 points, the boys only praised those who were fast or good at games, and said I was so skinny. I still remembered the frustration I had back then.”
“Is that why you’re still studying hard? To get back at those people?”
“…No…I’m not sure myself.”
But, Asuhain-san continued.
“I just…didn’t stop. I thought it was the only way, so I kept getting full marks.”
“…How were you able to work so hard? You couldn’t get the recognition from those people, so why …”
“No—it happened once before.”
The tone was subdued, but there was a blooming elation to her voice.
“After I got full marks for the umpteenth time or so…one of the boys said something…I remember it was.”
“I don’t remember the details, but I think he said, ‘Wow~’.”
The vague words she used ‘I remember it was’ and ‘I think’ showed how much of a smokescreen that was.
She remembered those casual words that weren’t impactful nor moving, and it proved that they were deeply entrenched within her, even though the person who said that didn’t remember them.
Surely Asuhain-san was saved by that single word, even if it was just an offhanded murmur—it seemed she couldn’t forget that moment, and drove herself to keep studying …
“…Anyway, that’s the only way for me to fight others. I have to be the best at studies…”
Finally, Asuhain-san looked up and stared at me.
“And then—you showed up, Irido-san.”
I was overwhelmed by the vigor in her eyes.
Back when I took first place in the entrance examination and read the speech as representative of the new students at the entrance ceremony, I couldn’t distinguish the faces in the auditorium. I could barely distinguish the faces of Mizuto, my mother, and uncle Mineaki.
At that time, she was one of the faces that I had lumped together.
She was looking up at me as an implacable enemy blocking her way.
Suddenly, a voice interrupted us. Hoshibe-senpai got up, still slouched on the couch.
So he too woke up. Hoshibe-senpai sighed, rested his chin on the back of the sofa and looked at Asuhain-san.
“All I have to do is study? What a load of rubbish—people aren’t such simpletons, are they?”
Asuhain-san’s eyebrows twitched, and the mechanical pencil in her hand stopped moving.
I stiffened as I saw her filled with anger that didn’t fit her small body. Before I could stop her though, Asuhain-san turned around.
“Don’t you take this chance to criticize my way of life, senpai. You just don’t understand.”
“There ain’t any people like that, you know? You just don’t get it—this school work is just a thing for students at school. Are you planning to stay in school for the rest of your life?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way! I’m just saying that there are people who can only live by focusing on one thing!”
“So are you going to sacrifice everything for that? Ahhh, I see, you’re acting like a protagonist now, aren’t you?”
Faced with Asuhain-san’s seriousness, Hoshibe-senpai in turn was aloof and unconcerned.
He didn’t even look at her face anymore; in fact, he even took out his phone and started playing with it.
“You know… if you keep on living like this, you’ll die someday.”
“All humans have to die someday…”
“You don’t understand. You really don’t. Look, I know it’s not something a mere high school senior should say, but I think it’s much better to live without driving yourself too hard.”
Hoshibe-senpai wasn’t ignoring Asuhain-san.
Despite his attitude, I sensed his words seemed to be out of concern for Asuhain-san’s safety.
However, Asuhain-san was heated up, and just couldn’t hear his intentions.
“Senpai…! You’re the kind of person who takes naps, doesn’t put in much effort, and easily got a recommendation! You don’t understand how people like me need to work hard…!”
Shouting this, Asuhain-san brusquely stuffed her notebook and textbook into her bag.
I called out, but Asuhain-san had her bag slung over her shoulder as she hastily stormed out of the student council room.
I sighed and looked at Hoshibe-senpai, who was busy playing with his phone.
“Senpai…I understand you were worried about Asuhain-san, but you don’t have to talk like that…”
Hoshibe-senpai scratched his head lightly,
“Did I mess up?”
“I think you did. You should ask Asou-senpai to teach you how to treat a girl.”
“Well, that’s quite a heavy punishment…”
Fuuu, Hoshibe-senpai let out a sigh, and looked up at the ceiling.
“My bad, Irido. I got a little hotheaded for no good reason.”
“You didn’t seem so to me…anyway, why?”
Hoshibe-senpai murmured and opened and closed his hand that was on the backrest.
“To be honest, I can’t lift my right arm above my shoulder.”
“Do you understand what I mean by saying this?”
Hoshibe-senpai didn’t look at me. I didn’t see anything in his face either.
But I thought I understood.
He was always aloof and elusive, always napping and unmotivated. However, both President Kurenai and Asou-senpai appeared to respect him, and given how sturdy his physique was, it seemed he was involved in something before.
I felt that I understood Senpai a little bit better.
“You take care of Asuhain, Irido.”
“No words of wisdom are worth a damn unless they come from the right person.”
And finally, Hoshibe-senpai looked at me just for a moment.
Yume Irido ◆ I’m sure you’ll watch over me
“Yume~, Mizuto-kun~, we’re going to bed~.”
“Don’t push yourselves too hard, both of you.”
Mom and Uncle Mineaki retreated from the living room into their room. Mizuto was next to me, and raised a fist towards them while his eyes remained on his textbook.
After our nightly remote study sessions, Mizuto and I would gather in the living room, where we would continue with our studies.
There would be strange misunderstandings if we were to meet in either of our rooms, but mom and uncle Mineaki could see us in the living room, and there’s no need to worry about anything else if we were just studying. I didn’t actually discuss this matter with Mizuto, but we spent the night together as though we’re capitalizing on a loophole.
Up until the first semester, I would have been too preoccupied to study. At this point, even though Mizuto was right next to me, I wasn’t as conscious of it as I should have been—in fact, I felt more composed and relaxed.
I was able to look at the table more comfortably compared to before. Maybe this was the reason why my studies progressed better.
…I wonder if Asuhain-san was forcing herself to study hard on this day?
No words of wisdom would work unless they come from the right person—I recalled what Hoshibe-senpai said to me. It is true that I was like her back then; I pushed myself to study hard for the midterms back in the first semester, lost to Mizuto, and slipped to second place. I regained first place for the end-of-terms later on, but I didn’t put as much effort into it as I did in the midterms.
Even so, me telling her to take it easy like I did would sound like advice from above…
What could I do?
She’s so obsessed about working. What could I, who made the same mistake as she did, do in this instance…?
Suddenly, Mizuto said.
It seemed my hands stopped moving while I was deep in thought.
Mizuto looked away from the textbook, and turned to my face,
“Nn…no-nothing, I don’t really have any problems.”
“So the student council?”
How did he figure it out? Well, if it’s something beyond what Mizuto could see, this would be the natural assumption by narrowing it down.
“Yeah…it’s about a kid in the student council, but…”
“It’s great that you got the time to worry about others..”
“Thanks to you.”
I giggled as I answered back. Maybe, so I thought.
There wasn’t any reason for that. His attitude didn’t hint at anything.
However—I had a feeling that he was waiting for me to talk to him.
“…If you are free enough to hear me out.”
“I’m five times as composed as you.”
“Can I talk to you about something?…I’m a little troubled about something right now.”
Mizuto silently turned his attention back to his textbook. He could continue to study if all he had to do was to listen, or so my interpretation of his gesture.
I told him briefly of what happened in the student council room on this day, about Asuhain-san’s condition and Hoshibe-senpai’s opinion.
And once I finished, Mizuto said tersely without looking up from his textbook.
“I agree with the ex-President’s opinion. It’s better to live without straining too hard than to die by overexerting. I think that’s a great statement.”
“Yeah…I think it’s a good statement too.”
“If you have something to rely on, that means that when it’s gone, you won’t be able to hold onto it. You were acting so precariously in the first semester. I don’t think that’s a very balanced way to live.”
By losing to Mizuto, I was able to realize that my friends wouldn’t leave me just because I lost out on being top ranked. I went from clinging to a single foothold to discovering that there was plenty of ground to walk on.
“But that’s if we’re just talking about efficiency. It doesn’t work for passionate people with passion. Doesn’t it sound like an instruction on a video game to them?”
“I…guess. Really, you’re right … no matter how right it is, it’s useless if the statement doesn’t resonate.”
“I remember when I was deciding on which school to enter. Our school back then didn’t have a stellar record for students aiming for special scholarships, so our homeroom teacher was really hesitant when I was told to reconsider.”
“Ah! I had the same experience! My thought back then was like ‘I don’t care!’. I thought that if I didn’t go to Rakurou, I would end up in the same high school as you.”
“The way you flipped out after you got accepted was really impressive.”
Kuku, Mizuto chuckled quietly. I felt pretty hopeless back then when I found out that I ended up going to the same high school as Mizuto, but in hindsight, it’s a funny story.
“That’s when I thought. We as people are always the only ones certain of our successes, and everyone around you only worries about our failure. It’s impossible to know what the outcome is until we open the lid. You may be discouraged by the loss of what you have been relying on, but you can’t deny the possibility that the child happens to be insane enough to not know how to be discouraged.”
“An insane person… Have you ever met such a person?”
…Ah. I understood then. She wasn’t disheartened at all when Mizuto rejected her…
“In the end… Everyone is built different, I guess.”
Everyone has their own way of life, everyone is different, and everyone is fine—so why should I interfere?
“That makes me feel… lonely.”
It’s like he was telling me that I couldn’t understand other people.
No matter how much I felt that people could understand each other, the fact remained that everyone’s different, and it’s impossible to understand each other on a fundamental level… so they say.
Mizuto remained silent for a while, and then he pointed at my notebook.
“Then, you should study for now.”
“Just open the lid. Do your best. You’ll see which one is correct…and then you’ll understand.”
It was a simple answer, uncharacteristic of Mizuto.
No…maybe it was typical of Mizuto after all.
It was so typical of Mizuto to spend so much logic to derive a simple answer—might make right.
For Asuhain-san, I was certain she could only prove himself right by beating me.
That’s why I should continue to stop her, stop her—and then one day, when she’s about to faint and look back at her actions, my words will finally reach her.
Until then, I’d just watch over you as a friend.
It sounded frustrating—but maybe that’s all we could do when it comes to people’s raison d’etre.
“If it’s too hard, let me know. I’ll keep the top seat for you.”
I taunted back at his vexing words with all my might.
“Don’t worry about it. You seem more comfortable in second place.”
I had a feeling as to why I felt safer around him compared to before.
Just as I was watching over Asuhain-san, he was watching over me.
Yume Irido ◆ The method of learning how to live
Thus came the midterms of the second semester.
As it turned out, I was able to get through the two-day test decently, and although I wasn’t sure about Mizuto, none of the participants in the remote study group looked desperate, it seemed we’re all fine.
The problem was Asuhain-san.
After the midterms, I met Asuhain-san in the student council room, where all the members had gathered for the first time in a long time.
“I feel great.”
Asuhain-san looked up at me with a confident smile, her chest heaving with her small body.
“I feel like I’ve done my best this time. I couldn’t spot a question that troubled me. Irido-san, it looks like your reign has come to an end.”
And once she stated that so confidently, the eavesdropping Asou-senpai joined the conversation,
“Feels like a line a loser would say.”
“Senpai, please don’t mix fiction and reality!”
Asou-senpai spoke like a kid while eating a convenience store pudding. She was rewarding herself for finishing the tests.
I looked over at her expression of radiant confidence,
“If you’re that confident, shall we have a bet?”
I decided to reveal the plan I had been thinking of.
Asuhain-san remained unperturbed as she snorted.
“Okay? If I lose, I’ll do anything for you!”
“Hmm? You said ‘anything’!?”
“Aisa. Read the mood.”
While Asou-senpai leaned forward, President Kurenai reined her back.
“In return, Irido-san, what will you do for me if you lose?”
“Let’s see…how about I show you my notes and textbook? I think that would be pretty helpful.”
“…I see. So you’ll show your hand. I suppose that’s good. Even as the enemy, there might be something for me to learn from you. So, the loser will show her notes and textbook, is that correct?”
“No. If I win, Asuhain-san, you will sleep exactly eight hours a day.”
The moment I declared so, silence befell the student council room.
Asou-senpai tilted her head in confusion.
“…Eh? That’s it? That’s normal.”
Yes. It’s normal.
“H-How dare you!”
Asuhain-san took a step back and gave me a horrified look.
“Eight hours…! You want me to use up my time!? Are you intending to rob me of my studying time!? That you can ensure your rank…! That’s despicable! That’s too despicable!
“Huh? …No, wait a sec Ranran? How many hours do you usually sleep?”
“About four hours!”
Asou-senpai’s mouth gaped open at the unexpected brazen answer.
“Four hours? Everyday? Seriously? You’ll die!”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m a short sleeper.”
…Is that so?
Would a real short sleeper actually doze off?
For the time being though, I would remain on guard.
“That’s what I mean. This will carry on until the next test. We’ll make another bet then, and if I win again, you’ll have to sleep eight hours every day again until the next test. That’s four hours of lost study time every day. I’ll basically be graduating as first!”
“…Same for me I’m going to win anyway. Your cowardly plan will never come to pass. Prepare your notebooks while you’re at it!”
I ranked first.
It was after school, on the day the midterm rankings were announced—Asou-senpai, President Kurenai and I were peeking at Asuhain-san, who was sleeping soundly on the sofa in the student council room.
Asou-senpai poked and prodded her adorable sleeping face,
“Woah~ that shocked me ~… I thought she had fainted because she saw the rankings.”
“Maybe the tension holding her up had snapped. I guess the fatigue overwhelmed her at once.”
With that, President Kurenai quietly draped a blanket over Asuhain-san.
I was first, Mizuto was second, and Asuhain-san was third again. There is a gap of about 10 overall points between second and third place, and I guess it shouldn’t be be a coincidence.
According to Mizuto—”Lack of sleep is basically handicapping one’s brain.”
Goodness me. There was no way we would have lost to someone who had been limiting herself.
“Eight hours a day. I hope you can abide by that…”
“She will. Right, Joe?”
The President directed the conversation elsewhere, and Haba-senpai looked at us from the conference table, affirming.
Haba-senpai always remained in the background and rarely spoke up, but he too might have been concerned about Asuhain-san who had been overexerting herself. According to the President, he was someone who paid closer attention to others than anyone else.
“Isn’t Ranran’s small stature because she didn’t get enough sleep? You know, they say that children who sleep well grow up.”
“I see. That’s one way to look at it…perhaps this is why I’m not growing any taller. It’s troubling.”
“Eh? …President, how many hours do you usually sleep?”
“Three hours. I’m a short sleeper.”
Once President Kurenai said so, Asou-senpai and I gave her a cold look. Her face didn’t look fatigued at all, and instead, she looked healthier than a normal person. Is she Napoleon or something!?
As Mizuto had said, there really are all kinds of people out there, including insane ones.
…But if one was to mistakenly assume that she’s one of them, she’ll end up wearing out her lifespan for no reason. Everyone has a unique way of life, but the body won’t respect the will.
“…Oh. What, are we burying her today?”
While the three of us were listening to Asuhain-san sleep soundly, Hoshibe-senpai arrived.
Once he saw his kouhai sleeping soundly on the sofa he always uses as a bed, he looked a little embarrassed, but he heaved a sigh of relief.
“You did it, didn’t you, Irido?”
“I don’t know. I think it depends on Asuhain-san as to whether your words will reach her, Senpai. ”
“Well…I guess so.”
Hoshibe-senpai was the one who told me ‘take care of Asuhain’. As he said, I decided to watch.
Hearing our exchange, Asou-senpai smirked and rubbed up against Hoshibe-senpai.
“Could it be that you got involved again, Senpai? You must have upset Ranran, didn’t you? You aren’t really a talker, but you’ve got a soft spot for your kouhais, Senpai!”
“Shut up…! If I don’t get involved in such matters once in a while, I’ll just be an old boy causing a nuisance!”
“But that is true, no?”
“You thought not, Senpai?”
“Be a little considerate, you second-years!”
Faced with the snarls, Hoshibe-senpai waltzed into the room and placed a paper bag on the table in front of the sofa.
I asked, and Hoshibe-senpai looked away awkwardly,
“…It’s my apology for being so rude. Please give it to Asuhain.”
“”Eh~? What’s in it, Senpai?”
“Dorayaki. Who doesn’t like red bean paste?”
“…No, there are people who don’t like them, Senpai.”
“Huh? You’re kidding, right?”
“I hate to tell you this, but my little stepbrother doesn’t like bean paste …”
The moment I gave an actual example, Hoshibe-senpai’s expression suddenly grew flustered.
Then Asou-senpai, looking up at me, continued with the pursuit,
“Senpai…you’re completely~~~~~ insensitive, aren’t you?”
“…Argh dammit! Fine! If it doesn’t work, you girls can eat it! I’ll buy you something else!”
“Ah~, you’re sulking~♪”
Shaking off Asou-senpai’s bemused look, Hoshibe-senpai quickly left the student council room.
Even if Asuhain-san were to ignore the promise and try to push herself too hard again, these gentle Senpais would surely rebuke her.
This repetition will teach her how futile it was to push herself. Even if that was the only way Asuhain-san could live, she could at least learn how to not overexert herself.
No matter how much Asuhain-san protested, these people –and I wouldn’t let her off.
Because we all like this earnest, stubborn, and adorable girl.
…By the way, red bean paste was Asuhain-san’s favorite food.
I should add here that the little animal-like manner in which Asuhain-san munched on the dorayaki was very soothing.
Yume Irido ◆ In just two words
I felt that since I had consulted with him beforehand, I had an obligation to report to Mizuto, so I did.
Mizuto, who had swapped out his textbook for a paperback, listened to me until the end, and said,
That was his reply.
I didn’t expect him to reassure me so simply, or to voice out impressions at length, and his answer was as I expected.
…Hoshibe-senpai appointed me, but someone else could have taken care of Asuhain-san, if not me.
Asou-senpai, who had known Asuhain-san for the longest time, might have forced her to sleep. Haba-senpai, who had a good eye, could have resolved the problem through President Kurenai.
I was sure that I wouldn’t have made that bet if I hadn’t consulted Mizuto. If I had simply won, Asuhain-san would have kept studying, pushing herself harder until she collapsed.
Having thought so…I felt ticklish in some way…but I guess…I had support.
I realized that I was still relying on Mizuto for some reason…rather…
I was about to say this to Mizuto, who continued to look at his paperback, and I swallowed my words.
I wondered if I could make it so simple.
Could I really express my feelings in just two words?
So I thought, and my ideas came together.
“Hey… there’s a day I’d like you to leave open.”
Mizuto finally looked up from his paperback.
I’d been thinking about that day.
Before the midterms, before the sports festival…no, way before that.
Mizuto’s eyes widened slightly.
It’s a special day for me and for Mizuto.
It might be more than just a holiday even for mom and Uncle Mineaki, for everyone in the Irido household.
It’s the first holiday in November.
“—Keep your schedule clear for our birthday.”