Yume Irido ◆Love becomes a curse in a single sentence.
And at the same time, she was rubbing Asuhain-san’s breasts in the bath.
“I got rejected~! Fuii, hic, whyyyy~!”
“What happened?” Once I asked, Asou-senpai let out her tears so openly that I couldn’t even retort. Asuhain-san, who was being rubbed, probably took pity on her too as she let herself remain in Asou-senpai’s arms, “Hii” “Nnn” she even made such ticklish noises.
“I thought it could work for sure~! Senpai’s an idiot~~~~!”
Even so, Asou-senpai managed to hold in her tears over this return trip that wasn’t exactly short. It seemed that she really didn’t want Hoshibe-senpai to see her crying as compared to anyone else.
But she ended up like this once she basically escaped into the girls bath…
It’s been a long time since I had seen someone cry so hard—looking at her, I really felt that Isana Higashira was something else herself…
A broken heart was basically something that would hurt other people’s heart so empathically.
The more serious it was, the deeper the wound… that everyday life till yesterday suddenly seemed so distant.
My breakup took a lot longer to prepare for than senpai, and it’s not something to be proud of… but the crying face of the usually reliable senpai (who’s rubbing someone else’s boobs) was painfully heartbreaking…
President said, looking a little sad as she narrowed her eyes.
“You two were already on such good terms, but he says he doesn’t intend to have a girlfriend. A man’s heart truly is a complicated enigma. What is he displeased about Aisa?”
“I don’t know~! Hii, fu…I-I told him, to be, my boyfriend…and then he just, ‘Sorry. I can’t be your boyfriend’…ueehhhh~!!!”
“Hyah! W-wait senpai, don’t yank it…ahnnn!”
Asou-senpai’s hands squeezed Asuhain-san’s boobs harder. It seemed the only thing that could console Asou-senpai’s heart was the feeling of her favorite kouhai’s boobs.
President frowned a little unhappily.
“He can’t be your boyfriend? Goodness, that Hoshibe-senpai, if he never intended from the beginning, he should have been more forthright about it.”
“If anything, Asou-senpai’s usually mischievous attitude was…”
“That’s so lame~!! M-My little devil attitude until now~!”
Indeed, it’s humiliating enough to give me the urge to cover my face. I probably wouldn’t be able to face Hoshibe-senpai properly again if it was me…
President waded through the hot water, and gently hugged Asou-senpai’s shoulders.
“You’ll get dehydrated if you cry so much. I’ll hear your complaints, so stop crying for now.”
“—Nnn! Nia! O-oy Why are you rubbing mine too?”
I gave a wry look at Asou-senpai, who had blooming boobs in both hands. I would probably end up as her prey if I approached her at this moment.
“…I feel like I heard something like that before…”
Then, next to me, Higashira-san, murmured something profound.
“Like there’s no hope, like it’s unbelievable…it does feel very embarrassing to think there’s a chance…
Higashira-san, who looked so unconcerned the day after she was rejected, probably cried like this on that day after all.
I really couldn’t console my friend like the President’s doing. After all, it was undoubtedly my fault that Higashira-san was rejected…
“…I’m sorry for nudging you irresponsibly.”
“It’s okay, At this point, it’s my fault for thinking it can work out after hearing that… I couldn’t understand at all until I confessed. That’s why I was so scared…”
I confessed, and I succeeded.
Higashira-san and Asou-senpai both failed.
What differentiates us? Could I be certain that the next time would succeed?
I didn’t know. I was scared because I didn’t know…
And since I was scared, I couldn’t help but think that I should never confess, ever…
“Fueehh… uuu. I can’t do this, even if… senpai says so, I can’t stop loving him…!”
She knew it’s hopeless, but she couldn’t give up her affection for him. When someone was basically cursed like this, how much could they endure?
Especially those living under the roof.
I might be hated after all— like when we became stepsiblings.
It’s just an imagination. It’s just an assumption.
I already envy Higashira-san. I felt an unknown fear about her, knowing that she’s able to go back to the relationship pre-confession as though nothing happened.
Asou-senpai continued to cry, and all we could only do was to offer words of consolation.
Akatsuki-san was the only one looking at us with a distraught face.
Kogure Kawanami ◆Boy and girl
“Asou-senpai got rejected.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I received this LINE message from Akatsuki.
Asou-senpai was rejected? …by Hoshibe-san?
“Seriously?” I confirmed, “Seriously. Everyone’s consoling her right now.” Thus came the reply. It seemed to be the case. While Akatsuki was a woman with some loose screws, she wouldn’t make such a lie.
I looked up from my phone and at the room.
“Woah! Oy, you’re pretty good, Haba!”
“I’ve been training online.”
“Bwoah! Oy oy, stop it stop it, don’t go beyond the ledge!”
Hoshibe-san was playing against Haba-senpai, using the game I brought along. He didn’t appear to be any different from before. I wouldn’t have noticed that he had just rejected a girl if Akatsuki hadn’t informed me. It didn’t seem that Haba-senpai, who’s playing the game, or Irido, who’s facing the wall while reading a book, noticed.
Wasn’t it a big deal to Hoshibe-san? No no no, it’s not like he got confessed to by an unfamiliar stranger. That’s the kouhai who had been hanging out with him for more than a year, right? I don’t think he’s so cold-blooded to not feel anything after rejecting a girl…
“Can you come out for a while?”
So I thought, and Akatsuki continued to send messages.
My hobby—no, that’s not it. I wanted to see other people’s happiness in love, so naturally, I wouldn’t like it when someone just got rejected. Anyway, I didn’t think Akatsuki would tell me everything, but it’s a lot better than just staying in the room without knowing anything.
“I’ll be buying drinks.”
After hearing Hoshibe-san’s brief reply, I left the boys’ room.
I went down the hallway, arrived at the stairs leading downstairs, and found Akatsuki waiting there. Once she saw my face, “Let’s go downstairs” , she went down. I followed her silently.
We went onto the hallway far from the frontdesk and the salon where the visitors were gathered, and Akatsuki leaned her back against the wall. She was staring at the Japanese-style garden in the darkness, but she’s probably looking at something else.
I too leaned my back against the wall next to Akatsuki and stared at the same scene..
After some silence, Akatsuki spoke up,
“Asou-senpai cried a lot.”
“…Is that so?”
“She’s usually so cheerful… Well, the way she cried was kind of funny.”
Fufu, Akatsuki laughed, but she seemingly lost strength thereafter…
“…You’re not asking how she got rejected?”
“What can I do even if I ask now? I just met her for the first time yesterday.”
“I guess… well, I don’t know the reason either. Really, even Irido-kun too, there’s a bunch of weird guys… the girls I supported all got rejected.”
I wasn’t involved, but Higashira once confessed to Irido though. She was completely nudged to do so. Irido managed to overcome the ploy of this girl here by dumping Higashira…but Irido probably felt responsible for that too, huh.
“Am I some unlucky star? All the girls around me got dumped, and I can’t fall in love. I feel depressed…”
“Don’t mention any superstition here. It has nothing to do with you, right?”
“Yes, I know… but I just can’t help but think of it when I see senpai crying… Will the girls who like you end up crying too… or something?”
As long as I had this constitution, I couldn’t accept any confession from anyone.
Furthermore, I might end up vomiting on the spot. This might be the worst possible rejection.
And she assumed— it was her fault.
“It’s one thing if it ends after you lashed out at me. Others won’t understand though. The girls get rejected by you because of me. You’re probably rather popular yourself, and there will be such girls showing up. You’ll be causing so many girls to cry. As for me—for me…”
Akatsuki said hopefully.
“I don’t want you to be such a horrible person.”
So that’s why she wanted to cure me?
She’s going to cure this constitution by hook or by crook, for the sake of those unfamiliar strangers that might not appear, huh?
“Hang out with me for a while.”
Akatsuki grabbed my arm without saying anything else.
“There’s somewhere I want to go… Do you know of that semi-mixed open air bath?”
Just looking at the changing rooms, it so happened that there wasn’t anyone else there.
It was a strange hot spring, with the bath right before us like a long, narrow passageway.
We walked through the bath, making splashes as we went deep in, and the water got deeper. We arrived at the muddy brown hot water that could cover our bodies, and over here the long, narrow passageway finally ended, and I could see outside.
It’s an open-air bath, but in fact, it’s half open-air, with a horizontal window for one to look outside. More concerning was another bathtub on the other side. The hot water and a stone wall that’s about the same height divided this bath in half..
“Ah, you’re here.”
There was Akatsuki.
Her arms were already on the stone wall as she sized me up with a calm look. The brown hot water wasn’t transparent at all, and her body was completely hidden beneath the water.
The other side was linked to the women’s bath, and both baths meet here. The muddy water completely covered the body though. It seemed this was what she meant by a mixed bath.
“Hehe…we’re fully naked, but we can’t see each other. It feels weird.”
The men’s side was the same as the women’s, and nobody else was around. Maybe we’re either early or late, but it seemed the rest of the time would be quite a fantasy.
“Oy, stop looking. There’s no other woman around.”
Akatsuki said with a condescending look.
“I can’t see anything anyway.”
“Shut up. You say that, but you’re still curious, right?”
“Seriously, wouldn’t anyone have a typical dirty mind? It’s really unreasonable that I end up nauseous whenever someone likes me.”
Whose fault do you think it is—I didn’t say that though.
She was most familiar as to whose fault it was.
Akatsuki rested her cheek on the stone wall, seemingly teasing.
“When was the last time we had a mixed bath together? …Ah yeah, we did before, right? Back at home.”
“That’s just you barging in. The last time we agreed to bath together was—- “
Ever since we dated.
I stopped my thoughts before I could recollect any further. Any more, and I would lose my composure.
“…Back then—during elementary school. We bathed together like it’s natural.”
“That’s how it is when we’re kids. We used to think it’s normal.”
“What grade were we in when that happened? The time when you asked ‘where do girls pee from’—”
“Stop! Don’t dig up my black history!”
“Ahaha! I was shocked to tears, and then you got scolded by your parents!”
That was when we didn’t know anything. The difference between men and women, what love was, and even how we turned out like this—
“When was the time when we wanted to bathe together. Didn’t you touch my tits?”
“Don’t slander me. There wasn’t any chance anyway. We just grew up, and somehow stopped bathing together—”
Somehow. Everything, just somehow.
Somehow, we didn’t bathe together; somehow, we stopped going to school together; somehow, we stopped talking to each other in class; and somehow—we ended up as lovers.
I didn’t have the resolve or a sense of responsibility. That’s what middle school kids were, whenever a girl approached, guys would end up with intelligence beneath apes. And whenever it’s not what they assumed, they start complaining.
Till this day, I still continue to receive the repercussions from back then.
“—Hey, are you excited?”
Akatsuki gave a mischievous smirk as she said,
“You’re in a mixed bath with a high school girl that’s me… let me hear your thoughts, Kawanami.”
“…Are you stupid?”
“Didn’t you just look back a few times? At this point, I ain’t getting excited just because I’m in a bath with you—”
I’m not as foolish as I was back then.
Not about men and women, love, resolve, regrets, or breakups.
The memories I was always reminded of remained in my heart.
Love’s not something to be done, but to be seen.
My answer— would never change.
Akatsuki’s response felt like there’s some meaning to it.
Once I sensed that something was amiss, she had already left the stone wall splitting the men and women’s bath, and with splashing sounds, she arrived at the large horizontal window where we could look outside.
And then, she put her hand on the window and the edge of the stone bath.
Water splashed everywhere.
Amidst the muddy brown water, the white back, waist, ass appeared from the water—
Before my stunned eyes, Akatsuki turned her body toward me.
She’s completely naked.
She sat on the edge of the bath, leaning on the darkness of the long window, showing her moist, glittering body before me.
With a smile on her face.
Tilting her head lightly, Akatsuki asked once again,
“Are you really… not excited?”
The petite physique hardly changed since middle school.
But her body, hidden under her clothes, had grown well. The curves of the hips and ass, and the lumps that didn’t appear to be there were somewhat present— the feminine curves were more obvious than before.
Even that childish looking back, that innocent face, looked so alluring.
At least— that’s what I felt.
I moaned, feeling the rashes and nausea rising up.
“Why… are you going this far…?”
Was it a question? Was I begging?
With an intelligence beneath that of a burning monkey, I could no longer ask myself.
“I think I’m fine with how everything is now… even if we repair our relationship… like before, and end up back as childhood friends… I don’t think it’s a bad thing, right…!””
Even I felt it sounded like crying.
To me, I sounded like a kid crying.
“So why— are we just wasting everything!”
The comfortable time was over.
That thought made me sad, angry, and my head was in a mess.
Akatsuki looked a little sad as she looked down.
“…Is it a waste?”
“Yeah. Isn’t it obvious…if you do that—”
If you show all that.
“—I can only look at you as a woman!”
Deep inside my head, something cracked like sparks. It erased my thoughts instead, overriding the thing called sanity, and dyed it with an animalistic instinct.
No! Stop it! Seriously stop! Let’s not go back to how it was before! It’s disgusting, disgusting, disgusting disgusting disgusting! Couldn’t I think it’s a wonderful thing? Men, women, everyone, couldn’t they think it’s wonderful? Couldn’t I think it’s a precious and cute and beautiful thing!?
Like—my childhood days.
“I’m sorry, Kokkun.”
It was merciless.
“But it makes me… really super happy to hear you say that.”
The moment I saw her bashful smile, I covered my mouth shut.
I couldn’t say anything else. I couldn’t even look up. With splashes echoing, I walked back to where I came from, through the hot spring that’s difficult to walk through.
Still, it didn’t go away.
Acchan’s naked body was seared into my head.
“…Damnit, damnit, dammit…!”
My brain juices beat hard like it’s the heart.
My throat was extremely parched, and I couldn’t catch my breath.
If only it hadn’t been like this.
If only we could remain as kids forever.
If only we could remain as childhood friends, nothing about being man and woman.
And yet— it wouldn’t go away. It just wouldn’t. There’s no sense that it’d fade away.
The faintly red skin, the tips on the lumps on her flat mounds, and the place I could see between those firm thighs…
I remembered. I couldn’t help but remember.
That fact proved that we could no longer go back to the good old days.
Yume Irido ◆True Declaration
I stared at Asou-senpai, who’s sleeping peacefully under the futon.
“…She’s worn out from crying.”
“She complained, yelled, ate and slept… just like a kid.”
Asuhain-san was a little taken aback as she said so. It’s true that senpai’s sleeping face was so innocent, she looked like she’s younger than us.
“No, she’s a baby. She’s obsessed with breasts.”
“And she even wailed away…”
“…People really can become like this thanks to love.”
I stared intently at Asuhain-san who muttered so.
“Is it unbelievable?”
‘Yes… I’ll remember this as the time I saw someone kick up such a fuss.”
“Well, I don’t think there are many who are as noisy as Asou-senpai…”
I gave a wry smile. After getting out of the bath, senpai literally gobbled down her lunch..
“But… surprisingly, I’m also… a little bit, angry.”
“At Hoshibe-senpai… was there a reason why he had to reject Asou-senpai and cause her to cry so much?”
“…Is that so?”
President too showed such an attitude, I guess it’s expected of her to think this way, especially since she’s close to Asou-senpai.
For me… well, I was the one who caused someone to be rejected. I couldn’t help but think that Hoshibe-senpai must have some reason for that.
As we looked down at Asou-senpai who was sleeping soundly like a child, Asuhain-san said,
“I don’t think love matters anyway…but after I see someone just cry so much, I feel a little moved. It’s like when I put in utmost effort for my studies— did she put in utmost effort for her love?”
“Y…Yes. I get that. When I see someone work hard— someone who really shows her serious self, I really have the urge to give her a helping hand.”
Asuhain-san mumbled in seemingly confirmation
“And how serious… was Hoshibe-senpai anyway?”
“I feel that… I’ve never seen Hoshibe-senpai actually be serious about anything. He already made it as the student council president, so there’s no doubt he’s very talented—”
I knew about Hoshibe-senpai’s shoulder.
I didn’t know the details, but it’s likely that due to a certain injury… he had to give up on a certain thing.
“’Why…that’s what Asou-senpai kept saying.”
Like a mother, Asuhain-san stroked senpai’s cheek, the latter being the reason why she joined the student council.
“Did he ever say why? He couldn’t say—why? Even when Asou-senpai was so serious?”
Why, why, why.
Asou-senpai kept repeating the word deliriously.
‘I can’t be your boyfriend’. That’s what he said to her. However, he didn’t explain as to why he couldn’t be her boyfriend..
If Hoshibe-senpai wouldn’t explain to Asou-senpai, the one person involved—
“—…I might be a little angry too.”
If Mizuto had explained less than he did when he rejected Higashira-san— I would begrudge him even though that reason was myself..
To like someone on my own will, to confess to someone on my own will. He might wonder what she was saying, or maybe not. It’s not wrong to take up that bit of responsibility, right. Couldn’t he have ended the feelings that she took for granted up till now— and do something about it?
Was it wrong to respond to her true feelings?
“Both of you.”
President Kurenai suddenly called out to us.
“A word beforehand, don’t do anything to corner Hoshibe-senpai. It’ll just add onto Aisa’s shame.”
“Well… we know that though.”
Ultimately, it’s just a matter between Aisa and Hoshibe-senpai. It’s wrong for us to get directly involved as outsiders.
President was right. As the one who knew Asou-senpai for the longest time here, she’s definitely the most angry. Our president remained very calm though.
But, then, what should—
“—…if it’s their own problem, why can’t they just talk it out?”
The one who suddenly said so softly wasn’t me, Asuhain-san, or the president.
It was Higashira-san.
“Since he rejected her confession, it should be fine now… good thing is that the trip ends tomorrow, so isn’t this fine?”
Uehehe, Higashira-san smiled bashfully as she said so.
“Just speaking from experience, but I think a confession gets much easier the second time around.”
Higashira-san should be the least relevant here, but her words were the most convincing.
…Seriously, I couldn’t beat her…
It felt like a long time ago that I was giving advice as the experienced one.
“…I see. Kuku…so that’s how it is.”
President shook her shoulders in bemusement.
“Well, there’s no reason to give up after just once. Aisa’s usually hated and never gave up… hahaha! It’s as you say indeed!”
President burst out laughing as though it was really funny.
Asuhain-san gave President a puzzled look, looked over at Higashira-san, and then at me.
“Erm… is it okay?”
“Well… nothing wrong with that, right?”
Just as a stubborn guy might get hated, a stubborn woman might get hated…
In Asou-senpai’s case… she’s usually hated anyway..
“Alright… now that we have decided, let’s begin a strategy meeting while we’re at it.”
With that, President Kurenai plopped onto the futon with her legs crossed.
“Tomorrow— at Mount Rokkō, Aisa will confess once again. And then we’ll get that fool of a lazy scoundrel to say what he’s really thinking.”
“You’re more upset than I thought, president…”
And so the night continued on in the girls’ room.
Jouji Haba ◆Last day scenario
It was the next morning, the third—and final day of the trip.
After checking out of the inn, we sent our luggage back home beforehand, and walked to our destination, the station.
The station— yes, but not a train station.
It was a cable car station.
There’s a ropeway linking directly from Arima hot springs to the peak of Mount Rokkō. We would take the cable car up to sightsee, descend from another station, and take the train back to Kyoto from the closest station. This would be today’s itinerary.
“Actually, I really wanted to visit the ruins of Takeda Castle. That’s too far from here though, and we need to walk dozens of minutes up the mountain, so since we have everyone here, let’s not do that…”
Having said that, it was the plan of Kurenai-san, the organizer of the event.
She continued, ‘Shall we go together the next time, just the two of us?’, and I answered her ‘If I have to carry the luggage’—there would be a bigger ruckus if I rejected her outright…
Looking down from the air, Mount Rokkō in autumn looks like it’s dressed in a fiery red. The experience of seemingly walking through a forest bonfire made the trip worth the trouble.
Usually, Asou-san would be clinging onto Hoshibe-senpai and making noise.
The reality however was that both of them were looking down at the mountain beneath through separate windows. Asou-san wasn’t making noise, and just flatly responded to Irido-san and Minami-san.
Even if it wasn’t me, it’s obvious…
Asou-san’s plan was that this was supposed to be their first date as a couple. Thus, the prettier the scenery, the other possible scenario that remained in her mind rendered her unable to enjoy it at all.
And on another side— I noticed another couple.
There’s Kawanami-kun who was talking to Hoshibe-senpai and Minami-san who was talking to Asou-san.
It seemed these two hadn’t had a proper conversation since morning—or rather, it’s like Kawanami-kun was the one avoiding Minami-san.
I stifled a sigh.
I didn’t think this would be a simple trip, but this was beyond expectation.
Men and women really wouldn’t get along well when they’re forced to work together.
Yume Irido ◆This shouldn’t be what you want to touch
Asou-senpai stared intently at the soft fluffy sheep’s wool.
We took the ropeway to the Mount Rokkō peak station, and first walked around the exotic area, the souvenir shops, and the terrace with a beautiful view.
I bought some souvenirs for Sakamizu-san and the others, along with my parents, and while it was a bountiful harvest, Asou-senpai remained listless…
We left the terrace overlooking Kobe, when Asou-senpai suddenly said,
“I want to go to the ranch.”
There’s a ranch at Mount Rokkō. It’s a short 20-minute bus ride away from the nearby bus stop. The ranch had been developed like a theme park, and had fences surrounding the pastures, where sheep, goats and dairy cows roamed freely.
I heard of this before. When someone’s in despair, the natural instinct would be to seek solace in animals.
Asou-senpai spotted a sheep strutting around, and was drawn to it, ruffling its wool endlessly…
“Fufufu…you’re so soft…unlike this skinny me…”
She’s supposed to be healed, but there’s a suspicious giggle coming from Asou-senpai’s mouth.
She didn’t stop with just that sheep alone.
She then found a Holstein and crouched down next to it.
“Fufu… you really have big tits, huh… Would it be better if I’m like you…?”
After that, she spotted a cute rabbit and squinted her eyes at it.
“Fufufu…if only I’m as cute as you…”
I had enough.
Was a combination of animals and a high school girl so heartbreaking?
Fufufufufu, Asou-senpai giggled as she petted the round Angora rabbit.
“Ahh… so soft… so warm… I feel like having a pet… Maybe I should ask mom if I can raise a kitten or something…”
“””DON’T DO IT!!”””
I heard of this before too! People wouldn’t think of marrying if they started raising pets!
Asou-senpai ignored the simultaneous retorts of me, Akatsuki-san and the President as she just laughed weirdly, petting the rabbit. She’s seriously ill, for real…
President put her hand on Asou-senpai’s shoulder as though she’s announcing the decision to restructure a company.
“We’ve discussed and decided on something. Do you mind?”
“After this, we’ll return to the station and have lunch, and then we’ll take the cable car down the mountain before returning to Kyoto. We’ll be adding one more thing to our schedule.”
If we interrupted her at the wrong moment, she’d definitely pout.
What we outsiders prepared for her was some time…
“There’s a little tower near the garden terrace where we just strolled. It’s a lookout post for viewing the mountaintop scene. It’s not very large, and can’t really hold many people.”
“Eh? Erm…what do you mean?”
“Go there with Hoshibe-senpai.”
Asou-senpai blurted, and her eyes shrunk to dots.
“I’ll figure out how to deal with Hoshibe-senpai, so just go to that tower. Go there and ask what you want to ask.”
“A-Ask what I want to ask… I got dumped though!?”
The loud voice sent the rabbits running.
“I can’t look at him in the face again… I don’t know what to say to him… and now you’re telling me to know what I want to ask…!?”
“You kept saying ‘why’ over and over again, didn’t you?”
It was Asuhain-san who questioned this time.
“Don’t you want to know? You can’t be his girlfriend— but you want to know what Hoshibe-senpai is thinking, right?”
Even if they couldn’t be lovers.
He could at least say what he was thinking—and give that much as a parting gift, right?
“There’s no need to be frightened now, Aisa Asou.”
President grabbed Asou-senpai’s shoulder firmly.
“If he hated you just this much, you would have been hated a long time ago, right?”
“… That’s right…”
“The guy you fell in love with isn’t some pathetic guy who wouldn’t give a reason for his rejection, right?”
“Well, even if that’s an incorrect guess on your part, and ours.”
President giggled, smiling as she always did..
“We’ll clear your corpse. You can touch Ran-kun’s breasts however you want.”
We laughed out loud.
Yes, that’s right. A rejected love wouldn’t kill anyone.
It’s possible for a smile to bloom after rejection.
Tears welled up in Asou-senpai’s eyes.
“Ca-can I…? Can I continue to struggle…?”
“Are you a fool? Didn’t I already say so?”
President lightly poked Asou-senpai on the forehead.
“No one allowed you to pester him in the first place.”
Thus, there’s no need to worry. There’s no need to be scared.
That courage— had always been in senpai to begin with.
Kogure Kawanami ◆Respect
The mountain air was so clean and fresh, but my breath was so heavy.
Walking next to me was Irido, glancing over… and continuing on wordlessly…
“Oy, say something already, Irido-kun?”
“What can I say?”
“You noticed, didn’t you? My sadness!? Can’t you show me some concern as a friend!?”
“Nothing much to say.”
“You’re so cruel!”
This guy really didn’t have the concept of friendship in mind. And to think he’s so overprotective of Higashira.
Well, even if he’s the one talking to me, I didn’t have anything to talk about either.
At best, he would say something like ‘it’s nothing’. If this inscrutable guy were to say so, I would be infuriated. He might even say something like ‘don’t give me that attitude’…
Well, it’s not something that could be discussed.
I hated myself for treating my childhood friend as a woman— and such, and I didn’t think I could garner any sympathy from him no matter how I talked about this. If I talked about yesterday’s incident at the hot spring, he probably wouldn’t think of it as anything other than flirting. Well, if it’s just a symbolic sympathy, I might not be able to remain calm either…
Irido probably didn’t say anything to me because he considered so— yep, let’s think of it as that.
…Come to think of it, I never discussed my troubles to anyone.
I did hear out other people’s troubles, but not the reverse— did I seal my heart or something? Did I draw a line away from others while acting friendly?
That Akatsuki might be similar in this regard.
I couldn’t imagine her actually voicing out her troubles with anyone. In fact, she probably never mentioned anything about my constitution.
We’re more like siblings than childhood friends.
Having thought so, I felt that my feelings were to be expected. If anyone was to discover that he has feelings for his older or younger sister, obviously there would be self-loathing.
But there’s one thing that made us different from siblings.
There was a time when I was undoubtedly horny about her.
And there was also a time when I acted distant and blamed her for everything.
“…Senpai, can I say something?”
Hoshibe-san, who’s slightly far away, was approached by the student council president…
She’s supposed to be with the girls, so why was she alone? What happened?
I felt incredulous, but the next line solved my doubts.
“I have a message for you from Aisa.”
Ahh… I see.
Asou-senpai isn’t giving up, huh?
“’I’ll be waiting for you at the ‘observatory’. Make sure you come by’—and that’s all.”
How much resolve did she have to add that one line?
I probably would be carried away to guess a woman’s heart, but this is not a line that could be said so easily. If possible, if you’re fine, if you’re free— like, I could imagine so many defenses set up like this. There were plenty of ways to ensure that nothing wrong would happen.
That’s the easiest way.
Anyway, let’s get it over with for now. Let’s take some time to cool off. First, to overcome the large wall-like task before her, and then to dart through it afterwards.
It should be possible. Tomorrow, two days later, at school, just chat like normal. That almost would allow them to revert back to how it was before the confession, on the surface at least. There’s no option more sweet and tempting than this for Asou-senpai.
But that person just kicked the handicaps.
She chose— to face the wall upright.
Last night… all I could do was run away.
—Love’s not something to be done.
Everything’s just so painful, so frustrating. I felt restless, teased, and hated myself. I couldn’t do anything well. Just looking on was way more fun than actually doing it…
Those people who decided to tackle this head on—were worthy of respect.
Hoshibe-san looked aside.
Then he tried to excuse himself.
“Sorry… but mind if you help me reject Asou? I don’t have anything to say to her— “
That’s not it.
That’s not it, right?
That’s probably not it. It shouldn’t be the case. He’s probably mistaken.
The line he should have responded with—wasn’t that.
At this point, I stopped being a ROM.
“Don’t worry, I’ll drag Hoshibe-san along, definitely.”
And before I knew it, I found myself grabbing Hoshibe-san’s arm from behind,
“Hey, Kawanami, what are you saying on your own?”
“Sorry, but I’m the type who can’t accept anything other than a happy end.”
“Hoshibe-san— you should answer serious people with seriousness.”
Ahh, which mouth’s saying this? It’s so arrogant, shameless, pompous and brazen. I guess that’s what people meant by being absolutely shameless. Something I couldn’t do, I insisted that others do. How many criticisms do I have to give before it hits me back?
“—Hoshibe-san, didn’t you say it before? Back in middle school… that her courage to confess was amazing?”
“Which do you think is more amazing? Confessing without knowing anything about you, or being willing to confess to you while willing to put the current relationship at risk? Which one do you think takes more courage?”
Yeah. Courage’s necessary.
We gave up on being childhood friends—and chose to be lovers.
“If you really think it’s amazing— and you should take her seriously… no matter how many times it takes.”
Don’t be frightened. Don’t run away. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo.
“Show us how cool you are—senpai.”
Seriously, to turn your back on a woman showing her true feelings… was totally uncool…
President, who had been listening silently, “Fufu” giggled as she looked up at Hoshibe-san…
“You got to set an example for your kouhais, President.”
“…I’m no longer the president.”
With a low voice, Hoshibe-san “ahh godammit” swore impatiently.
“I just need to go right? I’ll go then!”
He said in frustration.
“I’m not so useless as to try to run away after being told off this much— shit, why are our kouhais so meddlesome?”
“Didn’t you learn from watching the senpais?”
Saying that, the President snickered. Hoshibe-san too was rather meddlesome.
“Hah!” Hoshibe-san let out a loud sigh and looked at us.
“I guess that’s how it is. I’ll go have a look. Haba, you’re the oldest. Take care of the first years.”
“Eh? No, president—”
“All up to you now. And I’m not the president.”
After insisting so on his side, Hoshibe-san moved his long legs and went towards the bus stop.
His back looked a little bigger than just moments ago.
“…Aren’t you just a ROM?”
Irido said, looking a little bewildered.
“Let’s just say I got possessed.”
Love’s not something to be done.
But— I couldn’t help but do so accidentally.
Tōdō Hoshibe ◆True feelings
Creak, creak—there’s shoulder pain.
It’s my left shoulder. I usually wouldn’t pay attention to it. It’s not my dominant hand anyway, and wasn’t much of a hindrance in my daily life. It just felt like I got a vaccine jab.
Even then, there were occasions where I felt aching pain.
That moment definitely would come to mind whenever I did so. The distant basket—that no matter how much I reached out, the hands that I couldn’t touch no matter what—the defeated senpais—I was like Pavlov’s dog, feeling completely, endlessly helpless along with my pain.
It felt like it was saying, it’s supposed to happen anyway.
People always had such a thing. If one were to raise an ideal unbefitting of one’s share, the hard work put in would only cause suffering. Such a limit would be surprisingly close as long as it’s not a genius like Kurenai.
Therefore, we must always conserve strength.
It’s for the sake of dealing with whatever comes. It’s for the sake of being able to retreat once one notices something’s wrong. Conserve strength, remain calm, and ensure there’s enough to spare..
Besides— even if one’s serious.
All that would be felt was a painful retaliation.
She was waiting for me at the end of a narrow spiral staircase.
Her long, thin skirt was different from yesterday’s, and it swayed in the wind. The clothes were the same as usual, frilly, as typical of her landmine personality, but not as exaggerated as usual. She’s not wearing any accessories. There also wasn’t any of that usual eagerness to attract attention.
Asou turned around, pinning her hair down lightly.
Behind her, the fine streets of Kobe spread like gravel. This would be a beautiful sea of light at night— just like the night view from the Ferris wheel.
There wasn’t anyone else around, probably because it was daytime. Even if there were, Asou probably would have waited until nobody else was around before continuing. Such resolve was hidden within her emotionless face.
“…You’ve arrived, senpai.”
“Well sorta— got threatened by Kurenai and one other guy.”
Are you going to continue living on as an embarrassment— that’s pretty much the question I was posed.
I couldn’t answer immediately. At that moment, I would have been admitting that I was an embarrassment.
…But actually, so what if I was an embarrassment?
So I thought, but I really wanted to act cool, huh?
“…Just to say this first.”
I suppressed my heavy feelings as I spoke up,
“No matter how many times you confess to me, my answer won’t change.”
Asou gave a somewhat forlorn smile.
“It’s fine. I don’t think you’ll change your mind in a single day— but! Not that I think about it, it’s not too different from getting dumped every day, right?”
“You’ve been treating it like a joke every day, right?”
“That’s right… but I’m serious this time.”
“Senpai… no matter how much I harassed you, you always kept me company, right?”
“You’ll just be more annoying if I didn’t.”
“Then, in that case, please answer this… why aren’t you willing to date me? Do you really hate to be my boyfriend?”
Haa, I let out a sigh.
Kobe was so far down, but the blue autumn sky was so, so far away.
“Actually… I don’t think I hate it.”
I couldn’t think of any more excuses.
“I don’t hate it that you’re annoying. And you being clingy isn’t exactly tiring to me. When I talk to you… well, that’s pretty much how it feels. Of course… there are times when I’m happy.”
“So… it’s still impossible?”
“…Impossible? I guess.”
The moment I said so, I tasted a tinge of bitterness between my teeth.
“It’s not you. It’s probably… my own issue. Even if anyone else… like say, someone closer to me than you suddenly confesses to me, I feel that I’ll give the same answer… I can’t date anyone. Not to say that you don’t have the right to— yes, it’s me. I don’t have the ability to do so.”
I couldn’t have a relationship— I didn’t have the ability to do so.
I didn’t have the ability to be a boyfriend and date someone.
“That kind of relationship is beyond me. I can’t afford it. Even if I do, I definitely won’t be able to become the boyfriend you think I can be.”
Like that girl back in middle school.
You’d definitely feel that I’m different from what you expected.
“That’s why we can’t date. Because it’s you— that I don’t want to hurt you. To make this clear, this is what I feel.”
I was a little surprised.
Because of you—really?
At this moment, I realized this kouhai of mine was unexpectedly a large presence in my heart.
But that still wouldn’t change my conclusion.
No matter whom I was facing, I didn’t have the strength to care.
Asou probably said something.
I pricked my eyes while the mountain breeze howled..
“——-YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME———!!!!!”
—KIDDING ME~ KIDDING ME~ KIDDING ME…~!
The echo was so shockingly loud that it echoed through away, and I nearly fell off the tower.
I covered my numb ears, and protested at my kouhai whose shoulders were shaking as she wheezed away..
“D-Don’t scare me like that…! That’s too dangerous!”
“I don’t care!! You should have fallen!! Senpai you coward!!”
Asou charged towards me, and glared up at me at a distance where our toes were almost touching.
“And I wondered what the reason was! You say it’s because you don’t have the ability to go out with me? Are you saying you can’t be the boyfriend I want!? Now that’s a bigggg~~ mistake, you virgin!”
“For me! I don’t want senpai to become my boyfriend! I want my boyfriend! To be you! Senpai!!
What’s the difference?
Seeing how puzzled I was, good grief, Asou couldn’t help but sigh.
“Listen up senpai!? Even if we’re dating, I won’t ask you anything different from before. I’ll do things like I used to do, like say, chatting, play games, cook for you once in a while, stuff I’ve always been doing.”
“A-Ahh, I see…”
“I like you during normal moments like this, senpai! You find me annoying, but you always listen to what I have to say, the way you give the ‘uh oh’ look while playing games, and how you always finish up my food even though you don’t comment on it at all!”
“Oh, ohhh…you actually can say such things without feeling embarrassed…”
“I’ll go with the no guard strategy now! Who’s willing to act like the little devil now!?”
So she’s just playing a character after all?
“Do you understand!? I don’t want ‘the senpai who’ll be my boyfriend’! I want the ‘senpai’ whom I love so much that I’m hopeless!! I want this ‘senpai’ to take the seat of ‘my boyfriend’!! This special seat that’s closer than anyone else!! Looking at me from up close!!”
…She didn’t want me as the boyfriend… she wanted me to become her boyfriend.
“That’s not enough?”
“That’s not enough. I want to hear your true feelings, senpai. Your serious—voice.”
Asou put her hand on her chest and looked into my eyes.
“How much do you like me?”
I too stared back into Asou’s extremely serious eyes.
That’s all I could do.
I couldn’t look away, as though I was captured.
“…Does it have to be assuming that I like you?”
“You just said that you don’t hate me, right?”
“It’s not just about liking or disliking someone, right?”
“But you’re not indifferent towards me, right?”
“Then, you probably have a few things that you like, right? Please tell me about these. Just as I did.”
There was no escape.
I got mountains on both sides, and I couldn’t escape if I couldn’t fly.
“…Well, you’re surprisingly good at taking care of the kouhais, something like that?”
“Ahh… you can cook.”
“Y-You got a cute face.”
“Huh? Ermmm… you get serious when you want to do something…”
Once I eked out this answer, Asou showed a satisfied smile.
“Four… that’s more than I said, senpai?”
“Didn’t you force me to!?”
“But still— you do like some things about me, right? “
I hadn’t thought about it before, but—
“I guess since there are things that you like, there are things that you hate, right? I just need to change them. After all, I’m fully ready— to be colored by my boyfriend, you know?”
“…Will you become a gal if I say I like them?”
“What if I’m a possessive, restraining bastard?”
“Then I’ll delete all my contacts except yours, senpai.”
“What if I’m gay?”
“I’ll have sex surgery then.”
That’s definitely a lie— I thought, but at this moment, Asou’s giving off some intimidating aura that I couldn’t reject her.”
Tilting her little head, Asou asked,
“Is that still not good enough?”
When asked, I pondered.
I pondered over the things I hadn’t thought about until now. The things deeper within me.
“…No, I guess.”
The conclusion remained the same.
“No matter how compatible a woman you try to be, I still can’t handle it. Even if you don’t desire anything— I don’t desire anything of you.”
What was the desire?
The body? Approval? Nothing rang a bell.
If that’s all the desire I had, there’s nothing really different from the current situation, right?
“What do you want, senpai?”
What do I want?
“I don’t know… I didn’t know for a long time ago.”
“Is that so? I think I vaguely know what it is though.”
Asou walked before me to my side, and leisurely looked at the view from the mountaintop.
“Back during the arts festival in elementary school, I played the lead role. I felt joy to have people pay attention to me. Since then, I always wanted someone to look at me! That’s the life I wanted. “
“…That’s a deep-seated issue. Why didn’t you become an actress then?”
“That’s true. I did think of it before, you know? But… I couldn’t take it seriously.”
Asou giggled as though she’s mocking herself.
“It’s fun to have others look at me, but I won’t actually tie my life to it. I desire it, but I don’t have the passion or the talent— I was so insignificant that it made me sad. I was just a kid, and I should be free to dream.”
So, she said,
Asou looks up at the dust-free sky.
“I’ve always wanted something— something that others would look at me for, and something I could do seriously without any unnecessary thoughts.”
Ahh— suddenly, a glimmering memory came to mind.
The days when I was just going for the ball, just aiming to score hoops.
“Senpai, I’ll say this many times. I have already found it.”
Serious— Asou said so many times.
“Senpai— shouldn’t you muster your courage and show your true feelings too?”
It’s a clear autumn day devoid of anything else.
…You’re awesome, Asou.
You didn’t get dejected. You didn’t give up. You wouldn’t look for excuses. You didn’t try to fool around.
Straight as a layup, strong as a dunk shot.
You dragged me out of this place…
It’s amazing, so amazing.
So amazing, so amazing.
And somehow— I’m actually a senpai to someone like you.
I slowly lifted my left hand.
From low to forward. From forward to high.
Creak. I felt a tingle of pain.
But my left arm movement was unhindered.
I already knew.
The pain’s an illusion.
The memory’s in the past.
The current me’s not bound by anything—
—My left hand was reaching into the far, far sky.
Above the peak, above the tower.
The sky’s supposed to be close, but I couldn’t reach it at all.
—Ah, that’s right.
Compared to this sky, the basketball rim’s really up close.
The phantom pain was gone.
It was so close… yet so far away.
I hear Asou’s incredulous voice.
I clenched my left fist, seemingly grabbing this voice.
“I can’t show… any more of this embarrassing side of me.”
I lower my clenched fist to my chest and open it.
Of course, there was nothing.
There was nothing, but it felt like I grabbed something.
“Asou… thank you.”
“Thanks to you, I think I woke up.”
The thing I wanted to grab was immediately obvious.
I grabbed Asou by the shoulders, and hugged her forcibly.
“Didn’t you want me to show my true feelings?”
I felt Asou’s slender, soft, warm body as I whispered into her ear.
“Make sure you hear this well so that it doesn’t escape into the wind… I kinda like you.”
After trying it, I understood.
It wasn’t because I was saved by that moment.
I felt that she’s dangerous. But at the same time, I felt that she’s really strong.
And then I felt a sense of admiration. But at the same time, I felt like I was looking at myself.
And before I knew it— I found myself staring at her alone.
That’s why, yes.
Maybe the answer was obvious to begin with.
“I too— will only look at you for the rest of my life.”
A lifetime is too heavy.
I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the ability. I didn’t have the room for more.
Still, I wanted to say it, so I did.
I was too invested that I didn’t have any other unnecessary thoughts
Asou widened her eyes, her mouth agape as she looked up at me.
“What? Can’t you be any happier? Didn’t you just overcome a 3-1 lead?”
I too repeated myself without trying to pull a fast one.
“I want to be your boyfriend. So, be my girlfriend.”
Asou’s body quivered.
Ahhhhh~! Ahhhhh~!!! Ya~!!!…──!!!
The echoes faded into the sky.
Yume Irido ◆Your true feelings have to be expressed through action
A weird echo came from the tower, and a few minutes later, the senpais came down.
For some reason, Asou-senpai was leaning onto Hoshibe-senpai’s shoulders, walking unsteadily.
“Wh-what’s wrong, senpai?”
I asked, wondering if Asou-senpai got injured, and she grabbed onto Hoshibe-senpai’s shoulder, saying.
“I-I sprained my waist…”
“It’s said that’s what happens when people get shocked.”
Kukuku, Hoshibe-senpai giggled. His expression was softer than before, or somehow—more compassionate towards Asou-senpai than before.
This was… no way!
President Kurenai asked tentatively, and Asou-senpai grinned…
“Ehe. Ehehe. Eheheheheee~~~”
“Stop giving such a creepy laugh and speak up already.”
“Not that I can help it~ Do you really want to hear it~ Then I don’t have a choice then~ Mm-hm.”
Asou-senpai finally stood firmly on her two feet, grabbed Hoshibe-senpai’s left hand firmly, and raised it high like a referee.
“I present to you! Aisa Asou’s boyfriend, Tōdō Hoshibe-senpai!
“What kind of introduction is this?”
Hoshibe-senpai looked a little dumbfounded as he said so, but he didn’t deny it.
It was a reverse victory.
On this day, during the last few minutes, the last chance she had on this day, Asou-senpai managed to woo the one she liked.
—And at the same time.
President Kurenai and I were amazed at the scene before us.
“Is… your shoulder okay?”
Asou-senpai had lifted Hoshibe-senpai’s left shoulder above his head, but he acted nonchalant.
Huh…? Was it the other shoulder?
Hoshibe-senpai looked at his left shoulder,
“Well, this and that happened. So well, that’s that.”
“Eh? What now, senpai? Your shoulder?”
Asou-senpai gave an incredulous face. Her reaction left us all the more shocked.
“Wait a minute, Aisa— you didn’t know about senpai’s shoulder?
“Eh? Eh? What? I really didn’t know.”
“Hoshibe-senpai couldn’t lift his shoulder because of an injury!”
I said, “Eh!?” Asou-senpai’s eyes widened, and she hastily let go of Hoshibe-senpai’s hand.
“Y-You’re kidding, right? Is that so!? The pain just now— eh!? But that…”
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Hoshibe-senpai looked straight into Asou-senpai’s eyes and gently touched his left shoulder.
“This— got cured by you.”
He grabbed Asou-senpai’s hand while she looked confused, and walked off while leading the way.
“It’s time for lunch soon. I’m hungry.”
“Ah, yes! Now that you mention it, I…”
“I, as in atashi? Oy little devil character, you’re not calling yourself ‘Aisa’ in third person now?”
“Yeah Aisa. “
“Hyeaah!? Do-don’t call me that out of a sudden~…?”
We watched the couple from as they walked down the street, flirting away openly.
Asou-senpai was the only one— who didn’t know.
“—He didn’t want to show weakness to the girl he likes, did he?”
President mumbled, and I giggled.
Don’t you look good together, senpais?
Kogure Kawanami ◆Courage
…Oh, you showed me.
You showed me, senpai.
Then, since the flame’s ignited— the kouhais had to fight as well, right?
I was sitting on the stairs when she lightly waved at me.
“What are you doing alone in a place like this?”
With light steps, Akatsuki skipped up the short arched staircase that was like an open-air theater.
Yeah, I’ve been the one running away the entire time.
Whether it was the hot spring yesterday, or our breakup at the ward room, or even when I had a stomach ulcer, I could say it’s all because I didn’t explain the reason properly.
“You saw everything, didn’t you? Look, you can even see the rooftop from here, right?”
Now that she mentioned it, I turned my head behind me. There’s a tall tower made of white bricks, and I could see everything, even the rooftop where Hoshibe-san was.
“Woah, it’s true.”
Akatsuki said as she tiptoed and looked.
“Were you looking from such a place? You’re really a stalker, huh?”
“You say that, but it’s all over now. Well, I just happened to come across this place while walking around.”
I didn’t hear what they said…
I could hear Asou-senpai yelling occasionally— but what I understood was them swaying greatly.
That alone was enough for me to understand.
They were having a heart-to-heart conversation.
They were serious—ly facing each other.
…Seriously, that’s quite a hassle.
How could I not think about it after realizing such a thing?
Was I really fine with keeping the status quo?
I was so scared, so frightened of my constitution, my own wounds, and acted like I didn’t see that— but was I going to continue to be like this for the rest of my life?
Akatsuki had already resolved herself to move forward.
Was it fine for me to be the only one just trying to bluff my way through, content with the status quo?
…Let’s not think of anything unnecessary.
Let’s not say it’s fine to run away. Let’s not say it’s fine to bluff my way through. The only time when I felt it’s bad and all would definitely be when we were kids. I couldn’t tell Akatsuki how much I was suffering, and I ended up hospitalized. That fact wouldn’t change.
But since you’ve stepped out, I had to go along with you.
Because this wound wasn’t just mine.
It’s also— yours too.
“—Say, I’ll ask you again.”
From the front, Acchan looked me in the face.
She stood one step beneath mine, and I sat down one step above. The height difference that was there the entire time was gone.
“Why did you decide to… cure my constitution?”
A heartfelt question. A heartfelt voice. Heartfelt words.
It’s just that, how many walls I had to hit just to ask this question.
I knew we might not be able to return to the past.
I knew it might not end if we started.
I was intruding upon Acchan’s intentions, heart and domain with my own feet. It’s an irreversible choice. I couldn’t compromise like before. It’s a choice both she and I had mutually agreed to.
Most importantly, this constitution— the wound in my heart that had become independent of my will, was wailing away, saying that it’s scary.
—I might end up dominated by her again.
—I might end up being raised like a pet by her again.
—I might end up hating Acchan again.
These fears, these dreads, these anxieties, these rejections.
I needed true resolve— to overcome them all.
The name of this resolve… was definitely courage, I suppose.
What caused me to muster this courage? Acchan fiddled with the end of her ponytail, and her gaze wandered around, looking lost.
“…If I leave you be, you’re going to make many girls cry. I said that, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, so you say it’s your responsibility to prevent that, right?”
“Yes…that’s one thing. But the other is—”
While my heart tensed up, Acchan peered at me.
“…Say, do you have a sick bag?”
“Huh…no, I don’t get motion sickness.”
“Okay. Thank goodness I prepared one for you.”
Acchan rummaged through her handbag and pulled out a sick bag..
“Here you go. Open it and hold it. It’ll come in handy, right?”
She shoved the clean bag into my hands, and opened it beneath my face.
What is this? We’re not riding on a car—
“—And another thing is.”
Acchan showed a bashful smile akin to melting ice.
“I’d like to say I love you again someday, Kokkun,”
She said so openly.
A tremendous sense of nausea rose up from the bottom of my stomach. I couldn’t help but hunch my back and bring my face to the open sick bag. A terrifying spat of rashes ran all over my body. I felt like my entire body was in flames. The core of my brain seemed to stop thinking immediately, and a discomfort that messed my body up dominated my brain.
But then …!
I didn’t puke, and lifted my head from the sick bag.
I gritted my teeth and swallowed the rising nausea. I emptied all the brain cells, and with utmost effort, I sent the discomfort flying away from my body.
Acchan looked shocked.
“…It’s a good brunch…hehe.”
The back of my throat felt a little sour, but that’s all.
I managed to endure… the annoying allergies.
—What? I could do it after all.
“Ahh—now it’s ingrained in me.”
I forced a smile as I returned the sick bag to Akatsuki.
“Well, I definitely can’t leave this constitution unchecked… and I can’t let you take the initiative all the time.”
“That’s it? I just confessed to you, didn’t I?”
“At this time? Aren’t you an overbearing woman who’s always clinging onto old feelings?”
Akatsuki pursed her lips unhappily.
“Why do you make it sound like it’s someone else’s problem? You got all horny over me last night…”
“I guess. I’ll give you that much. Your body is surprisingly erotic!”
“…I can’t accept this…”
Love’s not just about beautiful stuff. There’s also a need for desire, and intimate contact of desire.
But— to fight this constitution, I definitely had to endure this much.
I mustn’t lose to my desire. I mustn’t be defeated by instinct.
I had to swallow both clean and dirty.
And I had to muster the courage— to take it hard on.
“Sorry for running away from you yesterday. Don’t worry, I’ll observe your body all over next time.”
“Don’t get cocky now, you weakling! Don’t forget that I still have the initiative!”
“That’s why I’m apologizing, alright? Spare me already. I really can’t endure this anymore now.”
I was going to puke. Really. I would let out one huge vomit.
Hmmm, Akatsuki showed a thin smile.
Just when I had a bad feeling about this, Akatsuki climbed up the step, and looked down at me like a king.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be cured of that. You can relax now, you know?”
“Oh, ohhh… so why are you so close…?”
“By the way…”
Akatsuki arched her back slightly.
And midway through, she looked into my eyes from up close…
Her shirt collar dangled slightly, and I could peer into a slender bosom.
“Based on the experiment results, it seems like you’re fine when you’re enamored by me.”
Akatsuki gave a devilish smile.
“So? About this point?…Am I right?”
The infuriating thing was…
—My heart just raced, but I couldn’t feel nausea or rashes.
Jouji Haba ◆Dream
Contrary to most expectations, everyone returned home peacefully.
We took the cable car down the mountain, and went to the nearest bus stop. Asou-san came back with a major upset victory, and was acting like a service-minded kitten, completely at the mercy of Hoshibe-senpai.
Hoshibe-senpai too wasn’t as aloof as he usually was, and ended up teasing the little devil Asou-san. Asou-san probably wasn’t used to being attacked, and she seemed flustered.
Meanwhile, Kawanami-kun and Minami-san, who were a little distant, started chatting as if nothing happened. They weren’t flirting openly like Asou-san and Hoshibe-senpai, but the way they talked and touched felt a lot more casual than before.
Irido-san, Higashira-san, and Mizuto Irido weren’t any different from before. Irido-san was boldly trying to join Mizuto Irido and Higashira-san’s conversation. Irido-san seemed a little reserved yesterday, but it seemed to be gone today.
I watched from the very back of the room.
They definitely had their own dramas over the past three days. I wasn’t involved in any of them. I didn’t think I had to be involved.
I was fine just being in the background.
I felt that’s my responsibility, my calling. There’s nothing to be scared about. I really felt the background was comfortable for me.
And yet, the main character shining brightest spoke to me, the background guy.
“How’s the trip?”
“…Not bad. It ended peacefully somehow.”
“I guess so. Aisa finally managed to get attached.”
Kurenai-san sat next to me, beaming happily. She had been the one putting in the most effort in the background regarding Asou-san.
“We finally have a couple in our student council. It’s really strange. Someone next to me has a boyfriend, and I’m happy and also envious—”
“Envious? You? Kurenai-san?”
Kurenai-san stared at my face and gave a meaningful giggle.
“I too wish to have a cute boyfriend, you know~?”
“…Are you trying to imitate Asou-san? It doesn’t suit you.”
“You’re not envious?”
“I’ve never really wanted… a girlfriend.”
That’s because if I was chosen, it meant that I couldn’t be a mob character.
I was different from Asou-san. The exact opposite even. I didn’t want to be seen— I just wanted to be an observer, not the observed.
Let’s just be an observer, a background character, completely devoid of personality.
“—I just want to be in everyone’s background.”
And that’s how everyone else could be propped up.
I could handle all the troublesome stuff. I could settle all the little stuff. Everyone just had to do what they wanted to do.
I could just be a blackrobe blending into the shadows of the stage, and be used for that purpose.
That’s my value— to everyone.
The intelligent Kurenai-san understood everything from these words alone, and smiled.
“I shall do this then.”
Suddenly, something soft touched my cheek.
I turned around, and Kurenai-san quickly removed herself.
And then—before her pink lips.
“Shh.” She put her index finger and beamed.
“If you don’t come out of the background—I’ll go to you.”
That’s all she said.
While I remained stunned, Kurenai-san returned to everyone— the center stage.
I continued to stare at her back from the background while I felt the lingering feeling on my face.
…That… that was.
You’re the person— who’s more dazzling than anyone else.
—I just wanted to be the one watching.
Ahh damn it.
I felt a little happy.
The most dazzling actress shining on center stage, was waving at a black suit actor hidden in the pitch-dark darkness offstage— I was caught in such an uncomfortable and unworthy delusion.
Really, stop that.
You could be anyone, but I couldn’t believe that you’d be a nobody for my sake.
—Please don’t show me such a feel good dream.
Mizuto Irido ◆Goal in life
We were on the train home, and Isana spent the entire time staring at her tablet.
Maybe it’s more inconvenient to draw using a stylus pen on the train, but she’s just drawing with her finger. It’s rude to just stare at someone else’s work, but I was a little curious, so when she stopped, I would seize the opportunity to talk to her.
“What are you drawing?”
“Just a rough sketch.”
Isana turned her tablet around, tilting her head as she modified something with her finger.
“Have you figured out how to draw backgrounds?”
“Ah, no, it’s not the background.”
“Is that so?”
I brought her along on this trip because I wanted her to learn how to draw backgrounds…
“I took photos of so much material, so I can just practice backgrounds slowly. There’s something else I want to draw right now…”
“Do you want to see it? It’s almost done.”
“If you’re okay with it, I’m interested.”
Go ahead, Isana said as she handed the tablet to me.
She had something aside from backgrounds that she wanted to draw? Was there something that could be an inspiration for Isana—
I regretted looking at the rough sketch without being serious about it.
A chill ran down my spine.
I wasn’t some drawing expert, and I couldn’t tell how good it was, given that it’s just a rough sketch.
That’s usually the case.
But it’s obvious at first glance. She didn’t improve. She changed. I felt that a fundamental philosophy relating to painting had changed entirely.
As to why, it’s because this painting had a soul.
It’s not some mentalistic theory or a gut feeling. That’s what it was. It’s just a rough sketch of a pretty girl. And yet it looked alive. The girl on this tablet screen really looked like she existed there.
Compared to Isana’s old drawings, I understood the reason immediately.
It’s the expression.
The illustrations Isana drew so far were all smiling pretty girl illustrations. There’s no substance to them. I just felt they were cute smiles. That’s all. They were just textbook expressions.
But what about the rough sketch?
The eyes were twisted in frustration. Tears. Clenched fists. A forced smile despite everything. The fluttering clothes. Disheveled hair like she was trampled upon.
Everything explained themselves to me without words.
It’s a love rejection scene.
“Y-You… this is…”
“I saw Asou-senpai crying, and the inspiration came! It’s the ‘this is fine’ feeling. How is it~? Doesn’t it look sad~?”
It’s no joke.
I read quite a few light novels, but I hardly saw expressions with such strong wills.
From up close, I saw someone’s love get rejected— that’s all.
She probably noticed it.
Where exactly was her talent?
—I was rattled.
It wasn’t just my body that was rattled. My heart— and soul too were.
I experienced this chill a long time ago.
It was the first time I read “The Dancing Princess of Siberia” back in the old study at the countryside home.
I encountered my great grandfather’s life through words, and this time, I felt moved by it just like back then— no, moreso than back then. I was shaken by the human called Isana Higashira…
Ahh— I couldn’t bluff myself anymore.
I wanted to know more about her life. I wanted to be next to her, closer than anyone, and read the book— called Isana Higashira before anyone else in the world could.
My future that had been drifting in the seas suddenly anchored itself…
When they were moved by someone else’s talent, they naturally would have an inclination to help.
They might even devote their lives to the cause.
Yume Irido ◆A little courage, and a big desire
“Now then, everyone, good work~! See you in school~!”
“Well then, good job, everyone! See you at school!
I saw a smiling Asou-senpai wave as she left with Hoshibe-senpai, feeling really happy for her, and felt really emotional after a long while.
She made up her mind, mustered her courage, and didn’t give up even though she was rejected—
—What about me then?
Could I do the same as Asou-senpai? Could I convey my feelings without fooling my heart, and face the fear of change head on?
To be honest, I thought.
We probably would continue as we were for a while. After all, we’re not just a man and a woman. We’re siblings living under one roof. I couldn’t confess to him. We’re different from being ordinary classmates. Even if we were to get together— what if we were to break up again?
It wouldn’t be a joke at that moment.
It’s better to remain innocent. We couldn’t be reckless. We had to be realistic. We might have acted on feelings if we were just stepsiblings. But given our history in middle school, I had to be realistic even if I didn’t want to.
Lovers would break up one day.
It’s fine not to think about what’s beyond— since it would only involve others.
I was too unprepared for the feelings that accelerated. That’s why I had to shelve them aside. I didn’t have to go out of the way to date him. Or rather, I could say that I was comfortable with our relationship at this moment.
Nothing would change.
We were just siblings.
Could we just have such a life instead… maybe I would have thought so somewhere in my mind.
But— I couldn’t help but think.
A yearned love was fulfilled. The thoughts that lingered for a long while were repaid. I saw Asou-senpai walking happily next to the person she loved— I couldn’t help but think…
—I was envious.
I wanted to be… like that too.
The necessary preparations were surely over. That’s what I learned from Asou-senpai.
As long as I could face them seriously, I would receive a serious response…
With a little courage, I could seize the happiness—
The little fire in my heart ignited a giant flame.
The name of the fire is courage.
The name of the flame is desire.
A little courage reaches out for a big desire.
I opened the door and called out to the living room. The lights were on, so mom and uncle Mineaki should be there. Did they enjoy their couple time together over these three days?
Mizuto, who returned with me, went up to the second floor quickly without saying he’s back. He’s so aloof even though he hadn’t seen them in three days. I should remind him next time.
Even so, I wouldn’t really nag at him— it would be bad if the situation’s awkward when the confession came.
…Yes. I would confess. I decided on it.
But there’s a time limit.
I would confess—within this year.
Before then, I would do everything I could to get Mizuto to fall for me. Best case scenario would be if he confessed to me the entire time.
Next year, we will return to being lovers again.
If we couldn’t, I should do as Higashira-san did, and be mere stepsiblings.
Of course, I didn’t want to think of such a future— but that’s why I had to plan. How should I approach him by the end of the year, over this month and a bit—
“…Yume, welcome back.”
I saw that the living room door was opened, and my mother was there.
But— she looked a little distraught… no, she’s troubled, maybe?
“What’s wrong, mom? Did you enjoy… your Good Couple Day?”
“No, we’re really happy. Thank you, Yume, for caring for us— it’s just that there is contact today…”
“I actually wondered if I should tell you this… but after talking to Mine-kun, he said it’s better to mention it. He’s really a good person.”
Mom smiled. I felt a strange sense of lovey-doveyness— but at this moment, I was more curious about this ‘contact’. Given her choice of words, it probably has something to do with me, right…?
Mom said with a heavy tone.
“—Your father wishes to meet you. Along with Mizuto-kun.”