Jouji Haba ◆A Wish without Radiance
I understood that I was destined to live in the background.
I wasn’t going to blend with the noise, nor was I going to hide in the crowd. I was just born with an appearance or atmosphere so plain that if I stood around, people would subconsciously forget me. This constitution that could only be explained as being innate, it never caused me any trouble or grief.
It’s just right for me.
I felt relieved to be out of everyone’s sight, in everyone’s blind spot—in fact, I’d say that’s the one biggest advantage for me.
I didn’t need a spotlight.
Because there’s plenty of other people in this world who are better than me.
For example, there were those who were great at winning the hearts of many.
For example, there were those who never stopped confronting their own shortcomings.
For example, there were those who viewed working hard as being a natural thing to do.
For example—there were those who had the charisma, and managed to gain followers wherever they went.
They were the ones who deserved the spotlight. The more light shone upon them, the more their innate brilliance would stand out.
If the spotlight’s just shining upon me, all there’s left would be an empty shadow.
That’s why I was fine as a mob character. I want to live in the background. That’s my biggest wish.
—Please join the student council with me, Haba-kun.
Only she, who shone brighter than anyone else and was the most different from me, wanted to drag me out of this background.
Jouji Haba ◆Travelers that couldn’t be simply summarized at once
It’s not necessarily a good thing to meet up earlier for a trip. Nobody’s going to see me, and I couldn’t make sure that I remained in their sights. That’s why I’d arrive on time and meet up quietly with the other members who arrived. That’s what I always did.
“—Oh, you’re here, Joe! Over here!”
Of course, that’s only when Suzuri Kurenai wasn’t around.
We’re gathered before the central ticket gate of Kyoto Station, where people from all over the world would gather. Kurenai-san found me easily and waved hard at me.
I felt restless when all the stares were gathered on me because a beautiful voice called for me. I sped up a little and joined the group gathered next to the escalator leading to the basement.
It had been a while since I last saw Kurenai-san in casual clothes. She was wearing half pants and stockings underneath, giving a mature vibe that showed off her legs nicely. On the other hand, the somewhat oversized blouse looked childish on her. I guess this deliberately unmatching style of clothes might be Kurenai-san’s fashion sense after all..
Kurenai-san smiled mischievously, the bangs tied in small braids swung like a pendulum.
“You’re here a little earlier than usual. Are you so excited to wait? “
“…I just thought it’s better to show up earlier when we consider the members joining us today.”
My voice was so soft that it got lost amidst the hustle and bustle, but Kurenai-san giggled happily.
“Well then, I have to thank everyone for being so serious. I got to see Joe’s face earlier than usual because of this.”
Again she started saying such uncomfortable words. Furthermore, she said so at a volume only I, the one standing closest to her, could hear.
“Hmm?” I quickly looked away from the green eyes that were staring intently at me, probing for a reaction. I hastily looked aside, and to dismiss this act, I checked the other members.
Aside from Kurenai-san and me, there were three other members present . Asou-san, Asuhain-san, and former president Hoshibe, all whom I often saw at the student council.
As usual, Asou-san was hugging Asuhain-san, and Asuhain-san looked repulsed as always. Hoshibe-senpai was leaning against the fence next to the information board, stifling a yawn as he played with his phone.
The gathering time was 9am—it’s still early, but while the ex-president might look that way, he’s always the type to be punctual. Rather surprisingly, the other member of the student council, Irido-san, hadn’t arrived yet.
“Yume-kun said she’s on her way with the other members.”
Kurenai-san took the liberty of reading my mind and noted so,
“It seems her little brother isn’t an early riser, and it took her more time. They should be able to make it before the train departs.”
Irido-san’s brother—Mizuto Irido, huh?
I had never interacted with him directly, but strangely, he had a tendency to stand out during critical moments—I didn’t know if I should say it’s because of jealousy, or that I had a disdain for someone who had the same character as me. It’s hard for me to determine either, but I felt frustrated just looking at his face.
“…Hm, speak of the devil.”
“Oh, Yumechi! This way, this way!
Amongst the passing crowd, a long black haired girl came scuttling up to us with two people in tow.
Irido-san looked at Kurenai-san with an apologetic look on her face as she tried to regain her breath.
“Sorry, president…I’m a little late.”
“No worries. I told you it’s fine as long as you catch the train, didn’t I?”
I nonchalantly paced behind Kurenai-san and observed the duo Irido-san brought over..
One of them was a familiar figure I met as a member of the culture festival committee, Mizuto Irido. He had an aloof, thin face, and was yawning away. I could see signs from his hair that he had just woken up, and it seemed he’s really a late riser. Was this one of the reasons why he’s been increasingly popular with the girls recently?
The other girl was one I met for the first time. She looked a little plain and was standing next to Mizuto Irido, clinging onto him. She’s not small by any means, but the way she looked like a dog clinging to her parent made her seem a little smaller than she actually was.
Isana Higashira…huh? She’s the girl rumored to be dating Mizuto Irido. It’s my first time seeing her, but maybe this rumor’s true. She had the aura of a typical shy person, looking a little scared, probably because she had never met so many people before.
All of us had already sent our baggage over prior to this, so like us, the trio hardly carried anything with them.
“Oh, Yumechi, who are those two?”
Asou-san, who had leaned over before I knew it, showed interest in the two people behind Irido-san. “Ah” Irido-san shuffled to the side.
“A little introduction. This is my little stepbrother—”
“I never agreed to being the little brother.”
“—Yes, yes. Here’s my stepbrother. Mizuto Irido.”
Mizuto Irido nodded lightly. He remained distant and guarded against others.
But Asou-san, the monster of communication, remained unperturbed, “Hmmm” she sized him up..
“Speaking of which, I’ve seen him before. He does have a cute face now that I look up close at him, you know?”
“…Senpai, that’s forbidden.”
With that, Irido-san stretched her arms before her stepbrother, as though shielding him.
Asou-san deliberately tilted her head.
“Little devil mode is forbidden!”
“How rude. Do I look like the kind of woman who’ll try to seduce any boy I see?”
“I heard that you tried to woo Haba-senpai before!?”
Teehee, Asou-san tried to dismiss this with a cheeky face. That really bothered me back then.
I nonchalantly turned to look behind Asou-san, and saw that Asuhain-san was giving Mizuto Irido a hostile look.
Since she’s already feeling very competitive against Irido-san, it’s natural that Mizuto Irido, second in her grade after Irido-san, was also her rival. She probably never took the initiative to pick a fight with him because he’s a boy.
“And then this is Higashira-san.”
After Irido-san introduced her, the plain looking girl continued to cling onto Mizuto Irido, “Pl-please take care of meeeeeeeeewwwww…” she lowered her head as she said that.
“Nn, nice to meet you! I’m Aisa Asou!”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Suzuri Kurenai.”
Asou-san and Kurenai-san too greeted her, but—
Their eyes slid over to Higashira-san’s chest as if they were drawn to that.
“…Hoho. Well, well.”
“I’ve heard rumors, but this is….”
I had been acting as a gentleman the entire time, and obviously wouldn’t keep staring as it’d be rude, but both of them just stared at that without concern. They had the eyes of an expert appraising antiques, and they started mumbling stuff like “yes” and “hmm …” in a formal and uptight manner.
Like, even though they’re girls, that’s too rude of them…so I wondered.
“Sorry to interrupt you two, but it’s rude to gaze at a woman’s breasts, even if you’re the same sex, senpais.”
Asuhain-san, who was behind them, said with a sigh,
Kurenai-san and Asou-san turned around.
“Ah, sorry about that. Even I was overwhelmed by them!”
“Anyone would have been looking! Any human would want to look! I’m sure of it!”
“That’s not an excuse…”
While Asuhain-san looked dumbfounded, I noticed that.
A certain person was gleefully looking down at Asuhain-san and the chest unbefitting of her small body.
“…A real big booba loli…”
“Who’s the big booba loli!?”
I felt that Irido-san should be able to take care of her, but who knows what the future holds…
And as this went out, the last two seemingly swam through the crowd and came here.
“Sorry to keep you waiting~!”
Skipping over to us was a ponytail girl who’s about as petite as Asuhain. Behind her was a pretty boy with brightly colored hair, strolling like he’s her guardian.
The ponytailed girl stopped in front of Kurenai-san and bowed deeply.
“I’m Akatsuki Minami! Please take care of me this time!”
“Haha. That’s polite of you, Akatsuki-kun. It’s not the first time we’ve met, there’s no need to be so formal.”
“Hehehe, I guess I’m influenced by helping out the various clubs.”
I didn’t know when, but Kurenai-san was already well acquainted with this first year called Minami-san. Kurenai-san’s someone who had quite the vast social circle, but Minami-san’s circle might be bigger.
“Yo, I’m Kawanami. Nice to meet you.”
The other boy, Kogure Kawanami, followed up and nodded.
Kurenai-san smiled and said,
“Yes. I’m Suzuri Kurenai. Nice to meet you. I heard you’re a childhood friend of Akatsuki-kun?”
“Well, that’s the best way to put it.”
Minami-san gave an intimidating smile.
“Hmm~? Kawanami, what would be the worst way to put it then?”
“…Master and slave, I guess.”
“Would you like me to remind you who’s the slave~?”
“S-Stop it, you idiot! We got people here today!”
What would have happened if nobody’s around? Well, it’s clear that those two were rather intimate.
It seemed those two were the type of people who were great at forming relationships, and they greeted us senpais one by one…Asuhain-san was the only one who took a step back to stay away from Kawanami-kun’s greeting. Well, it’s true he was probably the kind of person she’d hate. To me though, his friendliness was not to the point of being frivolous..
“Hoshibe-senpai, right? I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“They aren’t any good rumors, are they?”
“No, no, no. You’re legendary.”
Kawanami-kun remained fearless even when facing Hoshibe-senpai. Senpai’s a big man, and many would have been intimidated by him at first meeting, but it seemed he never intended to give such a vibe. Truth be told, it’s really a great help to have such a male here.
Now all the members were gathered.
I stood slightly behind Kurenai-san, and looked around at the nine people gathered in front of the information board.
Before I knew it, it ended up as the group of five first years Irido-san gathered being split from us five student council.
It seemed the first-year group was led by Irido-san, and Kawanami-kun and Minami-san would support her as the core. The remaining two—Mizuto Mizuto Irido and Higashira-san were chatting quietly from a distance..
Irido-san frequently talked to them, trying to involve them in the conversation—no, it seemed like she wanted to join their conversation. Kawanami-kun and Minami-san sensed her intention and casually supported her.
I could more or less guess the dynamics of those five. It seemed like those two were in their own world, but—Mizuto Irido and Higashira-san formed their core. The other three might be attached to those two, or got dragged along by them.
…It seemed they weren’t just a normal group of friends.
Compared to that—us student council group had simpler dynamics. Like usual, Asou-san was clingy towards Hoshibe-senpai, Asuhain-san was looking up to Kurenai-san with adoration. The only difference was that Asuhain-san would occasionally give hostile looks towards Mizuto Irido, wary looks at Kawanami-kun, and troubled looks at Higashira-san.
Three days and two nights with this group, huh—
“—What do you think?”
Kurenai-san suddenly appeared in my sight, but I was unfazed.
My heart jumped, of course, but I was already used to not showing my emotions on my face or in my attitude.
Kurenai-san’s eyes were glowing with curiosity. For some reason, she had an unusually vested interest in knowing how I viewed others.
“…Can I be honest here?”
“Nine is too many people.”
Kurenai-san gave a troubled, wry smile once she heard that.
“Don’t exclude yourself naturally.”
What else could I do?
I couldn’t see myself.
The only thing I could see was your high-specs eyes.
Mizuto Irido ◆What isn’t clear cut
Once we met up, we took the JR Kyoto Line from Kyoto Station and headed west.
It was the first day of the long break, but luckily, there were enough seats available for us to sit in a group. I sat down on the window side of the box seats, and Isana quickly sat down next to me before she got abandoned. Opposite me was Yume, and diagonally opposite me was an empty seat.
The other seven people, including Kawanami and Minami-san, headed for the other empty seats. All the seats in this carriage were in pairs though, so there naturally would be one available seat.
Because of that, the small girl of the student council (Asu…what?) was looking around restlessly in the middle of the aisle.
“Asuhain-san, over here.”
Yume beckoned, and the small—Asuhain?—came over to us. She looked at Isana and me with a slightly stiff expression, and then gave thanks to Yume with her eyes before sitting down.
She’s small, but she did give the impression of an uptight girl. She’s wearing a simple shirt and vest with jeans, giving her a boyish vibe along with her short hair cut. It’s hard to tell though as her body’s overly feminine. Out of the corner of my eye, Isana was next to me, staring at her chest.
“Erm…we just greeted, right? This is Asuhain-san, my fellow student council member in the same year.”
Yume thoughtfully introduced us, “…Hello.” but Asuhain-san just bowed. What’s going on? She’s just giving me a hostile look…
Since she’s in the same year, she’s a first year like us…wait? I heard something about that…
“Down down! Asuhain-san! Down down down!”
Asuhain-san was about to stand up, but Yume immediately held down her shoulders.
“Seriously! Watch your words!”
Yume glared at me as she said this.
“I told you about Asuhain-san beforehand, didn’t I!? Did you forget!?”
“Ah, my bad. I forgot.”
She’s always ranked third during the tests, so she’s hostile towards us for being first and second…that so? I really couldn’t remember as I wasn’t really interested.
“…Enjoy this while you can.”
Asuhain-san glared at me as though I was the one who murdered her parents.
“I’ll claw my way up during the next end-of-terms! I won’t lose to someone like you who’s completely obsessed with your girlfriend!”
“Isn’t she right next to you!?”
She pointed a finger at the one next to me—Isana, who was taking out a JagaRiko cup, ready to open it.
“This one here isn’t my girlfriend.”
“…Is that so?”
“Yeah. I’m not bluffing you.”
“Mizuto-kun, do you want some JagaRiko?”
“That’s obviously a lie!”
Rude. I’m the type of person who doesn’t really lie often. Om nom nom.
Asuhain-san looked at me suspiciously while Yume watched on with a wry smile as I went semi-auto while biting onto the JagaRiko Isana fed me.
Neither Isana nor I cared about getting those around us to understand anymore, but it’d be a bother to have such retorts from our traveling companions over the next three days. Let’s explain a little more in depth then.
“It’s just that she doesn’t have any other friends, so she clings onto me. Just treat her like she’s a dog…”
“Aah! That’s harsh, isn’t it!?”
I gently patted Isana on the head “Kuuu…” and she obediently quieted down. See?
Asuhain-san gave me a blank stare as I continued to pinch and puff Isana’s earlobe. She didn’t seem convinced.
Yume gave a wry smile and interceded.
“These two have always been like this. I get how you feel, but he’s not lying, really.”
“…So they’re just getting along well, and not dating, really?”
“Well, that’s how it is.”
To put it simply.
Asuhain-san looked back and forth between Isana and me and muttered,
“I don’t think this casual relationship that isn’t clear cut…is healthy.”
At that moment.
For just that moment, I felt myself freeze.
… As expected of the one ranked third. She’s a sharp one.
That’s quite a sharp analysis—and correct.
She’s wrong about my relationship with Isana though. I’m still ‘friends’ with this one—but beyond that, everything’s clear cut or so we thought.
What’s not clear cut was.
What couldn’t be clear cut was—
When I glanced over…and found that Yume too had a frozen face.
And Isana, who probably never noticed this frozen atmosphere, said timidly,
“…Would you like some JagaRiko?”
Only Isana would know what that timing was.
The only fact I knew was that Isana was slowly bringing a JagaRiko stick to Asuhain-san, and that the air froze again due to her ridiculous action again.
Asuhain-san stared at the JagaRiko before her for a while.
“Don’t say that.”
Isana shoved the JagaRico into Asuhain-san’s mouth, and Asuhain-san could only nibble on it like a hamster.
“…Fueh. How cute…”
Seeing this, Isana muttered in fascination.
It seems that she had been looking for the right time to do this all along.
Don’t treat someone you just met for the first time as your pet.
Kogure Kawanami ◆While feeling content
This train ride that’s a little over fifty minutes long turned out to be very worthwhile for me.
What? I assumed the student council would be some rigid organization, but it’s just fragrance everywhere. That senpai called Asou had been shooting love arrows towards the ex-president Hoshibe-san. Even I, seeing this for the first time, could tell.
She might look like she’s teasing him, but she’s not fooling me. I could see that somewhere within her heart, she’s actually embarrassed and joyous—the clear infatuation beneath her little devil antics was so cute and intriguing.
Next to me, Akatsuki’s giving me a grossed out look, but well, so be it. I wouldn’t have known about the inner workings of the student council if she hadn’t invited me.
The current student council’s increasingly popular because of the super pretty girls, but sorry to those fans. Anyone who falls in love will naturally pick those close to them. Well, there were exceptions like me—
“Everyone, let’s get off!”
We alighted at Sannomiya Station, just a little before Kobe Station, and stepped outside.
Compared to the Kyoto Tower standing tall before Kyoto station, there wasn’t any big deal before Sannomiya station, just some commercial buildings, but this unfamiliar scene alone caused me to feel like I was in a different country. More importantly, the buildings here were huge. I couldn’t find such big buildings in Kyoto.
“Are we stopping by somewhere before we go to the inn?”
I asked, and Akatsuki stared at the screen of her smartphone as she answered,
“Ijinkan Street. I heard it’s a place where Western Western-style buildings used to be built.”
“Heh, Western buildings? Seems like Irido-san will love it.”
“Yes, yes. I heard there’s a place where they recreated Sherlock Holmes’ room~”
Now that sounded interesting. I did read a bit about Holmes when I was a kid.
“—Woah! What is this!? L-lookie look! There’s a damn fancy Starbucks here!”
“Huh? Hey, I can’t see when you’re so close—woah, I’m serious!”
I widened my eyes when I saw the picture Akatsuki showed me. I wasn’t really a fan of such nice fancy cafes, but this shop here that was remodeled from a Western-style house was like a setting for some Western movie.
“Hey, hey, let’s go there! With Yume-chan and Higashira-san!”
“Sure! Let’s teach those shut-ins how to order at Starbucks!”
Alrighty! The two of us got excited.
We probably got along well like this because we’d been hanging out with each other for a long time. She hadn’t been making any weird passes towards Irido-san, and less wary towards me, so it felt like we’re back to that nice relaxed distance from before.
To be honest, I feel comfortable next to her.
Now all I had to do was to watch these adorable couples, and I’d be content.
Tōdō Hoshibe ◆She wouldn’t let me be alone
It’s not my first time accompanying my kouhais. I might be the oldest one, but with Kurenai around, it’s a lot easier. She would do all the work. I wasn’t surprised that I had the good sense to rope her in.
I went hard for the recommendation so that I’d have an easier time, but at this moment, I just couldn’t help but feel like I was in limbo. Everyone in class was studying so hard, already in the exam mood, and I couldn’t invite them out. Even if I tried to get them to experience a change of pace, it would only be a sarcastic remark coming from me who was already done.
Thus, the only people I could hang out with were the kouhais of the student council I had long retired from. Ahh, I’m such a lonely guy.
…It’s really been a long time since I last felt so abandoned.
Well, it’s not a big deal compared to when my shoulders got wrecked though—
“Let’s split up into groups then.”
It took us about fifteen minutes to climb the slop up from Sannomiya Station to the hillside. Far away, I could see a row of western-styled houses, and Kurenai passed tickets to us as she said.
“The road isn’t wide. It’s hard to move with ten people. Let’s split into groups of twos or threes.”
It seemed she was well prepared.
Well, the grouping was already settled. Us student council would be one, the first years gathered by Irido would be the other. Just nice, five against five.
Or, well—it wouldn’t be a bad idea to walk around by myself.
So I intended, and stretched, only for someone to latch onto my elbow.
It was Asou who yanked my arm downward.
At best, she’s being girly, at worst, she’s pitiful. This familiar girl was wearing a fluffy doll-like outfit, and looked up at my face—with determined eyes.
And she said,
“Do you want to go—together with Aisa?”
Asou then squeezed my arm firmly, as if to prevent me from breaking free.
Mizuto Irido ◆Love isn’t everything in life
As she saw Hoshibe-senpai get dragged away by Asou-senpai, Yume started mumbling next to me.
“…Looks like senpai is getting serious this time.”
“Ah, it’s nothing…just talking to myself.”
She made a fake laugh and tried to brush it off, but well, anyone could imagine just seeing that.
The student council’s surprisingly not too stable. Suzuri Kurenai and that treasurer guy were just flirting away. The real uptight person was that small girl—Asuhain-san. It got nothing to do with me, but it’s worrying to see her with nowhere to rely on.
“Well, it’s fine to leave those two alone.”
Kurenai-senpai said as she looked towards them.
“Yume-kun, you want to go with them, right?”
“Then I shall go with Joe…Ran-kun, what will you do?”
Asuhain-san looked back and forth between Kurenai-senpai and Yume’s faces. “Erm…” she was a little lost, and then.
“I’ll go with you then, president…”
“Sure. Let’s go then.”
You sure you’re fine about not being alone with that treasurer?
And before I could guess, Kurenai-senpai spoke to us briefly.
“Then everyone. We’ll gather at noon at Starbucks a little downhill. There’s a living room on the second floor that can accommodate everyone.”
After saying that, Kurenai-senpai, Asuhain-san, and the treasurer left.
Kawanami saw them leave and gave a mysterious smirk.
“Looks like it’s back to the familiar gang.”
The remaining five of us were me, Yume, Isana, Minami-san, and Kawanami. Well, it’s the expected grouping.
“That’s fine! That’s fine! We just met today, so it’s a little too worrisome to suddenly act together as a group. Right, Higashira-san?”
“Hmmm—it doesn’t really change things for me if Mizuto-kun’s around.”
“Speaking of which, you were rather talkative on the train. There’s someone unfamiliar there too.”
“Well, that girl has a nice body, and I forgot all my fears~”
Yep, it’s better for her to be shy than to sexually harass someone she met for the first time.
With a wry smile, Minami-san said.
“Coming from someone with the same body frame…”
“That’s the same coming from someone who started grabbing someone’s boobs on their first encounter, Akatsuki-san.”
Minami-san deliberately stuck her tongue out cutely. Why are the girls around me all dirty old men?
“So? Where are we going?”
Kawanami looked at the phone, and appeared to be looking at the map of the Ijinkan street.
“Irido-san, do you have anywhere you want to go to?”
“Ah, yes. That’s right. Erm, there’s some place called the English House.”
“Let’s go then. Looks like it’s rather near.”
“Okay~! Let’s go~!”
Minami-san skipped forward, and we followed.
And then, Isana gently yanked at my sleeve, whispering cautiously,
“(Are you fine with this? You’re not going to be alone…with Yume-san, Mizuto-kun?)”
I was wondering what she wanted to say…seriously, what’s she saying now?
“(Say, Higashira. Who do you think I joined this trip for?)”
“(Eh? I-it’s wasn’t for Yume-san?)”
“(I’m not that romance driven. Didn’t I say I’m here to get material for you?)”
“(I’m the one who invited you. I won’t leave you alone. That’s my responsibility.)”
Isn’t that to be expected?
Isana blinked away, “Fueeh?” She gave a relaxed smile, fiddling with her bangs.
“(Th-thank you very much!…I-I’ll cling onto you without worries then?)”
“(Whatever that’s within common sense.)”
I said, and Isana leaned her shoulder over. This might not be common sense…ah whatever, those guys were already used to it.
Sure, I like Yume, but my actions weren’t completely centered on that basis.
I wanted to maintain a balance here—and not to repeat my failure again.
Mizuto Irido ◆Famous Detectives are only limited to pretty girls.
There were a few windows on the white walls, with some double sliding windows I only saw in Western movies and fantasy anime. It’s small compared to the Western houses seen in mysteries, but this double storey house looked very exotic on this Japanese street.
“Woah! Can we just wear this?”
We entered the entrance, and saw hat and hanger racks there. There were deerstalker hats and Inverness coats of various colors hanging there—-Sherlock Holmes’ costumes.
“Eeh~! So cute~! Hey, Yume-chan, what color will you choose?”
“Hmm…beige is king, but red and blue look pretty cute too…”
“What about you Higashira-san? You looked good in the cape during the school festival~!”
“Uehh!? Me too!?”
Minami-san dragged Isana along, and the girls started yapping away as they picked their clothes in front of the hanger racks. Kawanami and I were left behind, watching them from behind.
“The colors look a little different, but they seem to be having fun.”
“Aren’t you quite interested?”
“I’m very adaptable, you know? If you’re not wearing it, I won’t.”
“Thanks for the concern.”
“Well, I don’t really care about the hat or the coat, but the pipe looks kinda cool~! I mean, doesn’t Holmes always smoke that pipe!?”
“You look so frivolous that smoking a pipe makes you all the more derpy.”
“Can’t you make it sound nicer? Choose your words well!”
And while we were having some idle chat, Yume and the others returned.
Leading the pack was Minami-san, bouncing up and down as she flipped the hem of her cape.
“Hey hey♪ both of you, How do I look? How do I look?”
Minami-san chose a blue Inverness coat. Basically, an Inverness coat has a cape attached to it that covers the shoulders. Once the petite Minami-san wore it though, it looked more like a poncho than a coat.
Well, it’s cute in that case, but it’s not my turn to show up
Hmmm, Kawanami made a long deliberate sound as he inspected Minami-san.
“Not bad. You look like a grade school kid on a rainy day.”
“How does it look like a raincoat!?”
Sure enough, he got kicked in the thigh.
Behind Minami-san, two girls approached me, looking all fidgety and restless.
“Fufufu…kept you waiting.”
Looking smug while wearing a red deerstalker hat and an Inverness coat was Yume.
On the other hand, Isana was looking down at her white Inverness cape, fiddling it while looking a little surprised.
“How about it? Looks good, doesn’t it!?”
Yume proudly showed off her detective look. The coat and hat had plaids, and nicely put, it looked casual, but, somehow—
“…Don’t you look more like Milky Holmes than Sherlock …?”
I didn’t know what she was referring to, but I got the gist of what she wanted to say.
Maybe it’s the fault of the colors (thanks to that?), but somehow, it looked like a cosplay.
I couldn’t really nitpick as it’s the host that prepared this, but the color mismatch didn’t seem to match the elegant atmosphere of Mystery. Are you sure you’re fine with that, mystery maniac?
Hm hm, Yume showed a pompous face as she looked down at my feet.
“You were a doctor in Afghanistan, weren’t you?”
“No, I wasn’t.”
“Ehe. I always wanted to wear an Inverness coat once…ehehe…”
Spin spin, Yume spun around, and the cape and hem of her coat fluttered as she beamed away. She’s having fun like a kid. I was then reminded that she usually looked so uptight, but this scene—
“Say, say…do I look cool?”
Yume asked me with expectant eyes.
She said cool…but well,
Personally, I felt that it’s more on the side of…cute.
“…Maybe it’s just me, but you look smart.”
I hushed my true thoughts and made a bland comment.
Yume immediately grinned “Thanks!” and went towards Minami-san while taking out her phone. It seemed she was planning to have a commemorative photo.
…Would it be better to say what I really felt?
But I had already forgotten how to speak with sincerity.
Mizuto Irido ◆The thing that only exists beyond the book.
“Feuuoh!? A-A face popped out of the ceiling!?”
“Holmes is looking at a certain situation—is it the ‘Musgrave Ritual’ or something? But it’s the scene when he peeked down at the basement, and he probably hadn’t met Watson yet…”
“Ohhh~! So this is Holmes’ room! Huh? There are two mannequins here. Which one is Holmes? They’re not wearing this coat.”
“They don’t wear coats indoors, Akatsuki-san. I mean, the outfit is just the creation of the illustrator—”
“Are these…bullet holes in the wall? What? I see it through ‘VR’ though. What’s VR? Virtual Reality?”
“Victoria! That’s the Queen of England back then! Holmes shot at the wall to kill some time!”
We’re on the second floor of the English House—and the entire floor was made into a recreation of the Sherlock Holmes world, where Yume was flaunting her otaku mode to the fullest.
It’s rare to see her show such an otaku side to her when she usually acted as an honor student. Maybe she’s touched by the gothic mood of this House and the recreation of the Sherlock Holmes world.
…But If I remembered correctly, Yume was more of a fan of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen than Holmes—well, I guess it didn’t matter, since Holmes was an existence that was beyond a favorite to those mystery and detective stories.
We went around the House, and then out to the garden,
“Ohhh…it feels just like a garden!”
There were flowerbeds filled with various flowers and shrubs, surrounded by a white cobblestone walkway. As Minami-san had said, it was a Western-style garden, but in the back corner was a replica of a London subway station—Baker Street Station.
Beneath the white roof were benches for waiting. In the back left corner was a life-size mural of Sherlock Holmes wearing a black Inverness coat.
Once she discovered this area, “Phew” Isana sat down at a bench near the wall.
“Let’s take a break. We just climbed the hill.”
“Yeah, I’m a little tired from walking too…”
Obviously they would be tired after such a ruckus.
Yume and I sat down on the bench after Isana did,”Yay! Photo time!” Minami-san energetically shouted as she stood next to Holmes. Kawanami merely took a photo of her with his camera, and as I watched them,
Next to me, Isana pulled out a tablet from her belongings.
She then started her camera, adjusted her angle and took a photo of the English House and the garden opposite. Once done, she stared at it for a while, and then started some app, pulling out a stylus pen from her tablet..
She then placed her tablet on her lap and waved her stylus pen over it
‘Are you drawing here?’
“Just a rough sketch~!”
In just dozens of seconds, the outline of the Western-style building appeared on the tablet screen. Without hesitation, Isana began to draw the decorations in detail.
“Hmmm…does it make it look western…”
She had been paying attention to the decorations and furniture on the walls and the ceiling when we were walking around the House, taking photos of them. It seemed like she knew what information she needed to draw.
I wasn’t an editor, nor was I a producer. I was just an ordinary high school student…but I could tell somehow.
I could tell who had talent, and who didn’t.
The illogical side of me said that she’s the former. It’s not just because of the completeness of this work, but that when seen together, the thought process and action allowed me to determine that Isana Higashira was what people would call a genius.
There’s no early or late as to when the talent would show. There were geniuses who won competitions in elementary school, and geniuses of their era who picked up the pen for the first time in adulthood..
In her case, wouldn’t that be her first year of high school?
Being an ordinary otaku, she was content with focusing her passion on imitating existing works, but in hindsight, wouldn’t that be the turning point of it all—and wasn’t I witnessing this moment?
I watched on, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the picture of the Western-style building that was getting increasingly detailed. It went from a rectangular to one with pillars, windows, balconies, railings, depth—
—At that moment, someone grabbed my hand, the one that wasn’t on Isana’s side.
It wasn’t forceful. It wasn’t a tug. The hand was just covering mine, and a cool sensation spread over the back of my hand. This alone caused me to jolt, and I turned to look.
Yume kept looking at her lap while she had her hand over mine.
It’s like she wanted to anchor me here.
She didn’t say anything; she didn’t look at me.
Yume didn’t insist on anything. She didn’t intend to convey her thoughts or pleas in her gaze.
Maybe it’s just me being deluded.
Somehow—that sidelong face looked a little forlorn to me.
…Did I just try to abandon her?
I didn’t know. I couldn’t decide immediately. Was it just me having a negative fantasy? Or was it my instincts that collated everything together to deduce something, just as they told me that Isana’s talent was real?
However, there were two facts within me.
First, I do indeed like Yume Irido.
The other—in a completely different way, was that I was increasingly charmed by Isana Higashira.
Jouji Haba ◆Good luck just for two
My position was always the same. I was always at the back of the group. I could see the backs of those walking before me. Thus, at this moment, I was staring at Kurenai-san and Asuhain-san’s backs while being two steps behind them.
Kurenai-san is calmly talking to her kouhai, while Asuhain-san was being all nervous as she responded to the senpai she really respected. I might say that that Kurenai-san’s ability to get friendly with others was prodigious, but it seemed Asuhain-san still wasn’t used to chatting with her.
We walked for a few minutes, went up a narrow alley-like slope, and a round western-style house appeared before us.
It’s pretty much the type of western-style house that would appear in a mystery novel—the white walls had tiles resembling fish scales neatly arranged, and that’s why it’s called Uroko House. Even the name sounded like it’s from a mystery novel.
There were only a few strange visitors—correction, a few ordinary college students and some tourist group of old people who entered this house before us.
We followed them through the entrance, waited in the visitor queue, paid the entrance fee, and entered the front yard of the house..
Right in the middle of the front yard was the bronze statue of a boar as big as a man.
Kurenai-san and Asuhain-san walked down the gravel path and approached the boar statue.
Asuhain-san muttered as she stared at the signboard placed before the statue.
Kurenai-san too stared at the signboard.
“I heard that if you stroke its nose, you’ll be blessed with good luck. Look at this. Its nose is the only thing glowing because it got touched so many times.”
“Ah, it’s true. It’s like it’s made of gold…”
“Porcellino-shi probably had enough of this. Let us pet it as gently as possible for its sake.”
“I don’t think you’ll need any good luck, President Kurenai…”
“That is not true. The fact that you joined us this trip—no, the fact that I encountered you is nothing but luck, Ran-kun.”
I always supposed Kurenai-san would’ve been popular as a boy. She could somehow say such a cheesy line with a straight face—and not treat it as a joke. That’s how amazing this person called Suzuri Kurenai was.
…She’s really not treating it as a joke, right?
Speaking of which, it might be lucky for me that Asuhain-san joined us—if I were alone with Kurenai-san, who knows how often I would be attacked by such ‘jokes’?
After stroking the boar’s nose for a while, they turned away, and this time, I stood before the boar statue.
Well, I really wasn’t the type of person who believed in power spots—but since we’re here, I wouldn’t lose out if I touched it a little.
I slowly reached out my hand to the sparking nose of the gold boar—
—And as I touched it, another outstretched hand suddenly touched it alongside me.
Kurenai-san reached her hand out and looked at my face from up close, smiling.
“Now you and I shall receive good luck.”
She put her pinkie onto mine that was touching the boar’s nose.
“Now then—what luck do you wish for?”
She chuckled, seemingly enjoying my expression.
I had several thoughts flash through my mind, but I didn’t express them as I hastily looked away from Kurenai-san, trying to remain calm as I answered.
“…Someone like me wouldn’t be able to answer.”
“I see. So you mean to ‘leave it to me’?”
Kurenai-san quickly removed her hand from the statue and turned away.
“(I promise you that we shall be the best of luck. Will you look forward to it?)”
The sweet voice echoed in my ear, and Kurenai-san went after Asuhain-san.
A tad late, I removed my hand away from the statue and gave chase after them, clinging onto the pinkie that had just experienced that touch in my palm.
—Don’t misunderstand. Don’t misunderstand. Don’t misunderstand.
And then Kurenai-san showed her pinkie to me, who was behind her, so that only I could see.
Tōdō Hoshibe ◆The emptiness devoid of wishes
“There’s somewhere I want to go, senpai!”
Asou latched onto my arm with hers as she dragged me along.
She’s always been like this ever since we first met in the student council. She would throw herself into other people’s embrace without fear of being shunned.
She’s probably the kind of person who would be restless unless she clung onto someone. After all, she proclaimed that she ‘joined the student council just to be popular’. However, she angered Kurenai after she tried to woo Haba a little too hard, and changed target towards me.
If I had to say, there were times when I felt that she was frustrating, many times—but normally speaking, that should be the case—the amazing thing about this kouhai was that I just couldn’t reject her.
Like, how do I put it…after many bumps, she managed to make it this far over the past year, and she’s not unreliable since she’s able to excel next to that Kurenai in the student council—but there were some situations when she would be helpless if she was left to her own devices.
Given the way she’s clingy towards me, it’s obvious that she had few friends. What would she do once I graduated? It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t say that I wasn’t worried about her feelings.
And so that’s why I had a reason to exist in the student council—starting off, I just wanted to check out the situation, but I never thought I would last till this point.
Seriously, I was starting to admire the ex-general affairs officer who’s currently busy with the exams.
“I found this on the internet. Looks like there’s a power spot where wishes can come true!”
We were so close together that we could feel each other’s breaths, but Asou continued to say excitedly,
“Ah~” I understood,
“A power spot? Feels like you’ll like such places.”
“You were probably obsessed with some black magic in middle school or something, right?”
“Obsessed…wait, not at all?”
“Can you say that without looking away?”
Asou’s expression clearly faltered as she cheekily pursed her lips.
“Like, I can’t help it! That’s how middle school girls are! Doodle some magic array on a notebook, being obsessed with some creepy horror story and stuff! You definitely bandaged your arms with something before, right, senpai?”
“Why would I know? That’s obviously just a chuunibyou phase…I always played basketball, so I didn’t have time to express such stupid self-desires.”
“Haaa~aren’t you very conscious? You’re definitely popular with the girls, aren’t you?”
“Who knows? I don’t really remember.”
“You liar~ The basketball club definitely have ladykillers.”
“Don’t spread such bias.”
Asou snickered as she glanced up at my eyes.
“I know that you don’t have a girlfriend, senpai.”
“Don’t go ahead and know this.”
“I feel that anyone can tell though? Those who have seen you now at least.”
Did I look like some couch potato without a girlfriend? I didn’t think I was that bad.
Asou’s arm tightened a little, and I tilted my head slightly.
We walked up the hill as we chatted, and arrived at what seemed to be the western-style house Asou mentioned.
To the sides of this mysterious house entrance were sharp eyed demons holding torches. It seemed this western-style house was turned into an art museum.
“Where is this place?”
Fufufu, Asou grinned like a witch.
“It’s said this place has chairs that can fulfill any wishes once you sit on it…”
“Saturn, as in that name?”
“No, not the evil Satan. The roman god Saturn. It sounds the same in English.”
“Ahh, that one…”
“Seems like he’s the god of agriculture.”
Suddenly, it didn’t seem that scary.
“Do you have any wishes you want to fulfill?”
“Fufu, what do you think it is then, senpai?”
“Let’s see…probably something like ‘I hope to have 10k retweets’.”
“Senpai, do you think Aisa is some attention seeking monster?”
“Of course I do.”
“Rude! Aisa only needs you alone to look at her…”
Hm hm, she snorted, and we entered the western-style house.
We entered, and there were stairs before us. There were rooms on both sides.
The right room had a bunch of strange sculptures resembling twisted animals lined on a shelf. It might look scary if someone saw it at night.
And the room to the left appeared to be where Asou was aiming for.
There were chairs with red cushions placed on both sides of the changing room entrance.
I see. Those chairs really felt like thrones. On closer look, the backrest and the handles had intricate carvings on them. The handles where the arms would rest had baby cravings with arched backs. I would have believed these were Satan’s chairs if nobody had explained to me beforehand.
“The right one is for females, and the left one is for males~”
“Hmmm. They don’t look any different to me.”
“Let’s sit down together at the same time. Together!”
There’s timing involved too?
Before I even had the chance to question, Asou stood before the right chair by the entrance.
And with her voice counting, I too sat down on the cushion.
It’s a gorgeous cushion, and absorbed my weight well as its appearance. It’s still a chair that was completely carved though, as I just couldn’t calm down after sitting down.
I looked to the left and saw Asou sit down on the chair with her back straight, her arms folded before her chest. Ah yes, wishing—I guess I should do that.
After pondering for a few seconds, I had the urge to sigh.
I searched my inner heart—but I didn’t get a result.
“Senpai. Have you made a wish?”
Asou put down her arms and looked towards me, saying so,
“Ehh~, tell me!”
From another perspective, was I content with my current self—
—For me, I just felt empty no matter what.
I stood up from the chair. It would be pointless to keep sitting down.
Asou then stood up, tiptoeing towards me.
“Senpai, you’re too lacking in desire. You even go full F2P.”
“Shut up. What did you wish then?”
“Eh~? …Do you want to know?”
She leered away as though to spite me, and said while seemingly trying to get me anxious.
“A little test then! What kind of wish do you think it is?”
“’You want to be famous’?”
“’You want to be rich’?”
“Nope! Aisa isn’t such a girl with zero originality!”
Asou deliberately puffed her cheeks. Should a second year high school student be doing such things?
“Is originality that important?”
“Hm, now that you say so, it doesn’t seem to be some rare wish…ah, but if it’s now, Aisa is the only one who made such a wish.”
“Aisa said so, right senpai?”
She made a mischievous smirk.
And she poked her slender finger at my face, seemingly tempting me.
“I know very well that you aren’t popular—senpai.”
For a moment, I didn’t understand what she meant, and I frowned.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“What do I mean~♪”
Asou snickered, and happily left first.
Asou knew I wasn’t popular, and was the only one who made such a wish…
My thought process stopped.
I didn’t have the energy to think of anything at that moment.
Kogure Kawanami ◆I don’t understand my childhood friend
After walking around Ijinkan, we arrived at Starbucks, and as the photo showed, it’s a mysterious place.
Starbucks itself was already stylish, but after this stylish western-style house was renovated, it’s super duper stylish. There’s a chandelier straight out of an isekai, windows, fireplace, lamps—tables everywhere, customers drinking coffee. It’s like we entered some upper class salon.
Deep inside the shop, we ordered at the only familiar sight, the counter, and went up to the second level.
We were headed to the large living room. There was a table of eight right in the middle, and the wall there had a long painting the size of a blackboard. On both sides were foreign books stacked taller than our eyes. It seemed like a deliberate setup.
“I-It’s so stylish…! Way too stylish…!”
Naturally, all of us were impressed, but Higashira especially was watching with glowing eyes. Given an otaku like her, this ordinary stylish Starbucks with an ordinary stylish space might suit her tastes for a fictional flair.
“Hey, let’s go to the window~!”
“Ohh! Even the way the sofa is arranged is so stylish…!”
The window side was arranged in a fan, and there was a sofa and round table set in that fan shape. It felt like the middle seat would be for some mafia boss or something.”
Irido sat down silently, and Irido-san then sat next to him. She’s a lot more aggressive now compared to before. It seemed like she used to worry about bumping shoulders, but at this point, she’s chatting with him while staring at his face from up close, so close that she could see his eyebrows.
The result was that Higashira, who lost her position, “Erm…” sounded like she was lost. She might cause pressure for the Iridos if she sat next to Irido…so I thought as I tried to talk to her,
“Higashira-san, over here!”
That Akatsuki grabbed Higashira’s hand before I could, and sat her down in the middle of the arching sofa. “Ah, yes” Higashira blurted as she sat to Akatsuki’s right.
I sat down opposite Irido—to Akatsuki’s left, and whispered to my childhood friend,
“(Eh~? What? Of course I’ll wish for my friend’s happiness, right?)”
Sounds sus. Didn’t she think that Irido and Higashira were being too clingy with each other…
Akatsuki sideeyed me and leered,
“(Don’t worry about the weird stuff. Can’t you just enjoy being an outright peeping tom? It’s rare for those two to be alone.)”
I could hear Irido-san giggling away. Irido-san leaned over happily, and Irido kept looking aside, not looking back at Irido-san as he murmured away. At this moment, their relationship was like—they knew where their vectors were headed, and it’s just so frustrating.
And yet, I couldn’t help but look next to me.
The chibi was sucking on a Frappuccino filled with a heap of cream through a straw.
Whether it was elementary school when we were on good terms, middle school when we broke up and shunned each other, or when we hung out together again after reconciliation—I was always able to somewhat guess what she’s thinking and doing.
So, this might be the first time.
I don’t understand what my childhood friend is thinking—so I thought.
Jouji Haba ◆The way to look at myself
“Eh~!? Amazing! This one’s really sparkling~! I want to take a photo~!!”
We met up with the rowdy Asou-san, along with Hoshibe-san who was pretending to be a stranger, and all ten of us were gathered.
The plan was to eat lunch together, and then we would head off to Arima hot springs in the afternoon.
We’d finally be split between boys and girls for our stayover, so I finally got some breathing room. There were arrows flying from everywhere this time around, and I had nowhere to hide—and who knew what Kurenai-san would do if I remained with her.
“(How is it?)”
I suddenly had my ear blown, and couldn’t help but squeal.
I looked to the side, and found Kurenai-san giggling happily for some reason.
“Why, that’s interesting. You act all aloof and all, but your ears are very weak.”
“…Anyone would be shocked when someone does that.”
“Do you only feel a shock? I did try to add some ecchiness in my breath.”
“I was just shocked.”
Yes. If my heart raced just because of this…my body wouldn’t be able to take it.
I looked away from Kurenai-san. Asuhain-san didn’t notice as Asou-san was teasing her. Was Kurenai-san seizing this chance?
“So, how is it?”
Kurenai-san said softly to me as her shoulder touched mine. It’s just a touch, but I could amply feel this softness, gentleness, slenderness and sweet scent distinct to a girl.
“I asked you this morning, didn’t I? How’s the group this time?”
“We split up. How would I know…?”
“But you’re still able to tell what’s going on, right?”
Did she think I was some famous detective? She might be the one more suited for this role…
“…The first year group is very complicated.”
Kurenai-san sideeyed the five first years seated on the arch-shaped sofa by the window.
“Irido-san obviously likes Mizuto Irido, and Mizuto Irido isn’t exactly against that. It seemed like they were stepsiblings just this year, so I guess this might happen…but distance-wise, it doesn’t seem to be just a mutual crush.”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
“I’m certain that both of them have feelings for each other, but my guess is that they’ve put it aside for now—I can tell that they ‘like’ each other, but I don’t know if they ‘want to date’, that kind of feeling.”
I could see their feelings, but I couldn’t tell if they had an intention of having a relationship—of course, it’s just my observation and my random guess.
“What about that girl? The one with large breasts—Isana Higashira-san?”
“That one’s even more confusing. To me, she’s a weirdo who’s a complete wildcard. There’s no doubt that she likes Mizuto Irido, but for her to have a love triangle with Irido-san, well, I don’t get that feeling from her—to put it, she gives off the vibe of someone with completely different values.”
“What about the remaining two? To me, those two appear to be on quite good terms.”
“Pardon my rudeness, but that’s blind of you.”
“They’re obviously a couple that broke up. The kind of couple that remain as friends who get along with each other.”
They understood very well, and never showed concern about stuff ordinary men and women would worry about. Despite that, it felt like they both got lines that they couldn’t cross. There’s no doubt that they’re an ex-couple. I was very certain of that.
“I see…so they’re childhood friends, and also that. I never thought of that.”
If this were anime or manga, the story would have ended after dating, but in fact, there’s a possibility of breaking up after dating. It’s natural.
It wasn’t scary to think that it might happen to me.
“The reason why they’re able to chat normally after breaking up is because of their great communication skills. Those two probably have some vast social circle in school. Once they got along well, it’s all easy for them.”
“Seriously, you should be a politician’s secretary in the future or something.”
“It’s a rare recommendation, and I don’t want to be some lizard tail.”
Kurenai-san snickered. For some reason, the more I boasted, the happier she was.
“But really, you really have a keen eye for people.”
“What are you—”
Saying this halfway through, I was shushed by a straw.
The latte straw in Kurenai-san’s hand.
“How about you look at yourself once in a while.”
Kurenai-san’s large eyes reflected my face.
I could see my ever plain face that’s like a photocopy.
I understood that—but I moved the straw away and said,
“…What do you want me to do?”
“You know that.”
My face is shown in your eyes.
I can’t see myself, but I can see it when I look at you.
Truly, I understood that.
Kurenai-san took the straw I just nibbled and deliberately nibbled onto it.
“I want you—to come alone at night somewhere.”
She sipped the latte, finishing it, and showed a faint, dauntless smile—looking at me.
“Shall we rendezvous? Keep it a secret from everyone.”
She boldly stated.
That face was overly cool and dazzling—and for a moment, I couldn’t say anything.