The Beginning of Summer
Compensation—A term everybody knows.
In order to obtain something, you first have to sacrifice something else.
And as people are aware of this system, we continue to fail and eventually regret something.
We know that we have to pay the price for something, yet we cannot find the enticing invitation in front of us.
As for what I’m trying to say…Humans cannot win against the sweet and soft embrace of a futon.
And by indulging in a second nap, you cast away your hope of a relaxed way to school, instead being forced to dash like a madman not to end up late!
“S-Sou-chan, you’re too fast!”
Right now, I, Haruoka Sou, and my childhood friend Amagase Kazuhi were running to school as if our life depended on it.
Our hair was rustled up from the wind, our skin sweaty as we gasped for air—That’s the kind of experience you get.
Then again, I asked for this.
“I-I can’t run anymore, Sou-chan…Just leave me behind…”
“Don’t give up, Kazuhi! Give me your hand!”
I grabbed Kazuhi’s hand, who was beginning to lose speed and lacked behind, and pulled her along as we ran.
All so that we arrived in the classroom in time to not get scolded.
We were getting closer to school, but so was our deadline.
It was a battle for seconds.
And while I ran for my life while pulling along Asahi, I thought to myself.
—You rarely see such an unromantic and boring type of holding hands, huh?
“Phew…somehow, we made it in time.”
Three minutes before class started, we arrived at school, and I plumped down on my seat.
I used a sheet of paper to fan myself with some fresh air, but this only acted as more fuel because I kept on sweating endlessly.
Kazuhi, seated one seat ahead of me, was still gasping for air.
Because we ran so much, her cheeks were red, too.
“You okay, Kazuhi?”
When I ran out of the house before, I quickly grabbed a cool water bottle from the fridge.
I now took this out of my bag and placed it against Kazuhi’s cheek.
The moment the bottle touched her skin, she let out a flustered voice, only to immediately rub her cheek against it.
Having enjoyed the cool sensation for a moment, she gulped down a good amount of it.
“Listen, I don’t want to repeat myself over and over.
You don’t have to wait for me every single morning.
Just go to school without me.”
“Huh? But, our houses and high school are the exact same, so I wanna go together with you!”
“I’m shocked you can say that after being forced for a last-minute dash like this all the time…Well, if it’s just me, I can even use my bike, so I can handle myself.
But when I go with you, I have to get up early too, right?”
“But you don’t get up early at all! Even today, we almost ended up late.”
“…It works out every three days, so that’s good enough.”
I’m saying this for her sake.
I’m trying hard to wake up on time so that I don’t have to force her through another last-minute dash…but as you can see, effort isn’t always repaid one to one.
And regarding the whole bike argument, I don’t have a problem with Kazuhi riding together with me.
The issue I take is with her skirt.
When it flutters around because of the wind, I don’t know where to look, and it’s poison for my eyes.
And granted, this could be resolved by properly tucking it beneath her legs, but she doesn’t even realize that.
Ever since I got a clean look at her panties, I’ve realized that I cannot let her ride together with me.
“It’s so weird.
You can’t get up at all, and yet you run so fast.
Haven’t you even gotten faster lately? I don’t feel like I can catch up to you!”
“Sure you just haven’t gotten slower?”
“N-Not at all, hmph!”
Really? It sure feels that way to me, at least.
In the past, I never really paid attention to that, but as our bodies grew apart, she started to look smaller.
Not just in height, but in her hands, too.
And I realized that yet again today when we held hands.
With that thought in mind, I glanced at Kazuhi again.
She’s got a slender body and snow-white skin.
Her almond eyes were big as she looked around.
Her hair was soft, tied up into two braids beneath her airs.
Each time she moved her head, her hair shook gently.
And whenever that catches my mind, I just want to ruffle her hair up.
You know, it’s like an instinct you have with small animals.
She always seems like she’s above the clouds, yet has good reflexes (except when she falls).
And whenever I look at her on a tiring day, I just want to rub her head.
“Sou-chan? What happened? Why are you staring at me like this?”
The reason I want to touch her from time to time is that she’s like an animal.
But…To me, she’s a childhood friend and someone like a little sister.
The other guys say “Kazuhi is cute,” and “If you’re not dating, then introduce me!” And it’s true, Kazuhi and I aren’t dating.
That’s why I don’t have any particular reason to decline that request.
“But I’ve got no girlfriend, so it would be no fun if you suddenly found yourself a boyfriend.”
“What are you talking about now?!”
“I’m saying that neither of us is dating someone.”
“But…we didn’t even talk about that up to now?” Kazuhi tilted her head in confusion, only to then ask me with a somewhat worried tone.
“…Do you want a girlfriend, Sou-chan?”
“I mean, if it’s between wanting one or not, then I definitely want one.”
“What about you? We rarely talk about this, but do you ever think that you really wanted a boyfriend?”
I don’t know why, but I just can’t see her ever getting a boyfriend.
I never hear her talking about other boys from our class, and if she’s interested in any.
“You’ll never get a boyfriend if you keep hanging out with a guy like me.”
Unlike the always-cheerful Kazuhi, I’m not really going around making friends.
I only really kept her around, and I’m not the type who’s too open with others.
And the one friend I have is quite the weirdo.
“Do you not hate being with me, Kazuhi?”
“Huh? Why would I? I don’t hate it at all! In fact…I like it! I like it very much!”
“You like it? What the heck does that mean.”
“I mean, I really don’t mind! You’re so kind, too, Sou-chan!”
“Oh? The guy who forces you to run almost every morning is kind?”
“But you try to get up early at least once every three days.”
“That’s…not a good record to brag about.
Whoever this guy is can’t be a nice guy.”
“You just tried to use that as an argument, though!”
It was a regular slapstick comedy act.
Since we’ve known each other for years, we can have these kinds of nonchalant exchanges.
“…Y-You are kind, Sou-chan.
And I know how hard you work.
The reason you sleep in every morning is that you help your family at home, right?”
My parents own a restaurant, so I regularly help set tables or wash dishes.
That being said, I’m not doing it out of kindness, I get paid for it as an allowance.
And yet, Kazuhi seems to think I’m doing it out of sheer benevolence, as she sends me a warm gaze.
“A-And…when we have to run in the morning, you tend to grab my hand and pull me along…and that makes me h-happy, too.”
“Morning, you two!”
Kazuhi started mumbling something, which was eventually drowned out by an energetic voice.
“What’s this, what’s this? What were you talking about? Let me join in! Actually, just look at this! Tadaaa!”
The same voice now continued and showed me a pebble he found.
This guy…at least is supposed to be my friend, but when I looked at the pebble that was just…a pebble with a shit-eating grin, I started regretting calling him my friend.
“Listen to this, Sou! I bought this a while ago! And it says this stone makes a devil grant any of your wishes! Ain’t that amazing?!”
“That really is amazing, but how about you cool your damn head, you moron.”
“Insulting me right off the bat?! Why?!”
“You came here bragging about this nonsense and didn’t expect to get insulted?! Your brain works in mysterious ways even I don’t understand!”
The boy who puffed his cheeks out at my retort was my other childhood friend, and (although I hate to admit it) my only male friend, Kusama Yousuke.
And as you may have been able to filter out from this short exchange…this guy’s an idiot.
“Why are you wasting money on a bogus like this?! Do you wanna go homeless in the future by throwing around your money?!”
“How rude, I’m not that stupid! And also, my dear Sou, I’m buying dreams! It’s a dream!”
“You don’t buy dreams.
You grasp them with your own hands, dumbo.”
“Huh?! That sounds hella cool! But, Sou! On the shop page online, it said that this stone has the devil slumbering inside! The devil! That’s so romantic! How could I not buy one!”
“I don’t get how your brain works.
And I don’t wanna know, either!”
Let’s relax, Sou-chan, Yousuke-kun.”
Kazuhi observed our exchange for a brief moment only to get between us when things were about to get heated.
“You go tell him, Kazuhi.
He should buy a textbook instead of throwing away money for some nonsense like that.
Might help his brain grow.”
“A-Ahaha…But, the idea of a stone granting any wish does sound interesting.”
“That’s my Kazuhi-chan! You really get it!”
Kazuhi played good cop with Yousuke, who laughed.
“All right! Since you’re so kind, you can have this stone, Kazuhi-chan!”
“Huh? But…you bought this because you wanted it, right?”
“No worries, no worries.
I felt satisfied just buying it.
And honestly, my room’s getting cramped with all the stuff I bought, so good riddance!” He gave Kazuhi a thumbs-up as he handed her the stone.
Sidenote here, his room is full of occult goods and all the related…Imagine weird statues, odd wands, fishy magic books, it’s all full to the brim you can barely even walk through it.
Honestly, all those goods are put away in much greater order than the room itself.
“Kazuhi, you can just throw that thing down the river.”
“A-Ahaha, but that’d be such a waste.
Thanks, Yousuke-kun, I’ll gladly accept it.”
“You’re very welcome!”
“Don’t waste any more money, okay?” I emphasized.
“I’m not wasting any money! Oh yeah, I bought a screaming straw doll together with this stone! It was 50% off, so I couldn’t let that slip past me.”
“You’re already throwing more money out the window! And why does it have a screaming function?!”
“Like I said, it’s not a waste! It’s a necessary expense for the ritual at our occult club! And the screaming function actually works super easily by pressing the button, and it screams like a real person! Listen!”
Yousuke didn’t give me any time to decline as he pressed the small button on the back of the doll.
Immediately after, you could hear terrifying screeches and screams of terror filling the classroom.
Our classmates around us immediately glared at Yousuke.
“God, that’s so annoying! It’s not “bring your object to class” time today!”
“It’s always the same with this guy…”
Despite the usual grumbling and complaints of our classmates, there was a certain level of familiarity mixed in there.
We’re still in our first year of high school, and it’s July 1st, no less.
It’s barely been three months, and they’ve already accepted the fact that he’s a total weirdo who buys ridiculous stuff off the internet.
And they fear him…in a bad way.
“Howzzat?! Pretty cool, right?!”
And worst of all, he’s not even bothered by all the negative attention he gets, just jumping around like a little child on Christmas.
It’s like he was asking to be praised for his good work.
Going that far, he’s honestly starting to look a bit adorable with how oblivious he is.
How does that even make sense? He should get chastised for good at least once.
But for that reason, I also chose to keep quiet about the murderous shadow appearing behind him.
“Y’know, I think our next ritual is gonna be a huge success! Isn’t that crazy? I’m so cool! I feel like I might be able to win against some devil or evil deity!”
“Oh, really now? So you think you can win against your teacher, Kusama?”
Yousuke showed a confident grin but only for a split second as he froze up like an ice statue.
Shortly after, a hand was placed on his head, belonging to our homeroom teacher.
It was a gentle hand placement, but if I had to guess, that very hand could crush Yousuke’s head like a ripe apple.
The devilish aura from behind Yousuke said as much, too.
“Hahaha…Causing problems each and every single damn week…Maybe I should send you down to hell so that you can repent for your actions…”
“N-No, please! I may be interested in occult stuff, but hell and all that is outside my area of expertise!”
“I don’t wanna hear any complaints! Kusama, come to the faculty office after school today! It’s time I make sure the word ‘repentance’ is added to your vocabulary!”
Our homeroom teacher was kind deep down, but he also doesn’t bother hiding his fury if he’s ever brought to his limit, just like now.
That aura emitting from him alone was enough to make Yousuke’s legs quiver.
I’m so glad we got him as our homeroom teacher.
He’s the one person who keeps Yousuke’s nonsense in check.
“W-Will he be okay…?”
“Probably not, and that’s all I need.”
“Homeroom’s starting! Take your seats, everyone!”
With our teacher’s dominant call, all our other classmates quickly stopped their discussions with their friends and sat down obediently.
Like this, another regular day began.
It’s what I would call my daily life.
It’s nothing oppressive or drowning, but there are no powers or special abilities you’d see in a fictional story.
However, with my always-smiling childhood friend and a stupid but genuine good friend at my side…this kind of life isn’t so bad.
…And with that being the case, the day passed as quickly as it started.
“Sou-chan, let’s go home!”
Since we were neighbors and not part of any club, Kazuhi and I would always walk home together.
Unlike in the morning, we could actually take our time, which I preferred.
Around this time, the sun was still high, and the clear sky was colored in a bright blue, with dusk being far.
“Sou-chan, it’s almost summer break, right?”
Being able to sleep in…Ah, what bliss.”
“There’s lots of other stuff I wanna do other than that! This is our first summer after becoming high school students, right?”
“Lots of other stuff, eh? What do you have in mind?”
“Huh? Well…Going to the beach, or going hiking in the mountains!”
“I don’t have the money for that…Well, hiking could work out, but in this heat? You’ll just be drenched in sweat by the end of it.”
Our homes were relatively far from the next beach, but using the train, we’d reach the mountains in just a few minutes.
However, we went there already in both elementary and middle school, so I don’t feel too motivated this time.
“Really? I think it’d be so much fun.
And getting all sweaty makes it feel like youth, no?”
“You can always sweat as much as you want…Specifically in the morning when we have to run to school.”
“But I’m not talking about that!” Kazuhi pouted as she complained.
But right after, she averted her gaze and started fidgeting awkwardly.
“But…it doesn’t have to be a special place like the beach or the mountains, honestly.
As long as you’re with me…I’m fine with going anywhere.”
“Back in elementary school, we’d spend every day together, remember? I’m getting all nostalgic.”
Back then, we were always a pair.
I never doubted that for a moment.
It only really changed once we enrolled in middle school.
Girls would spend time with girls, and boys start hanging out with boys.
It was an adolescent mood, you could call it, and although we’d still see each other on the daily because we’re neighbors, we stopped playing together every single day during summer breaks.
But even so, Kazuhi is Kazuhi.
That won’t ever change.
Even though she’s a girl, we were always together.
She may be like a little sister, but that doesn’t mean I would want to push her away or hurt her.
“…Well, if it’s anything realistically doable, then we could go somewhere.
Money-wise, that is.”
When I showed the intention of spending time with her, Kazuhi’s eyes lit up.
“Really, really?! What place would be good…Ah, I don’t know…Um…Yeah! I wanna go to a festival!”
“A festival, huh?”
That’ll be the 3rd and 4th of August.
They usually put up a lot of stalls, holding a larger festival for the whole area.
When we were still in elementary school, Kazuhi and I would often go there.
“That much should be fine.”
“Really?! It’s a promise, okay!”
“Yay!” Kazuhi raised both her hands in the air as she jumped like a rabbit.
She smiled like a blooming flower, worrying about nothing else in the world—
But, she was too careless.
She didn’t realize that a bike was quickly approaching her from behind, so I had to pull her closer to me.
“You okay, Kazuhi?”
“You don’t have to apologize.
Just be careful…Here, walk next to me.”
“…You okay? Your face is red.”
“Huh?! N-No, I’m okay…Well…It’s hot, after all! And I was feeling a bit thirsty!”
“That makes sense.
Maybe we should grab something to drink.
But there are no vending machines around here, so…Ah.”
“Maybe we should stop there? Been a while since last time, right?”
“There…? Ah! Yeah, that sounds great!”
On our way home, we adjusted our route and headed to a certain place.
Eventually, we reached a sweets store we’d regularly visited as kids.
The air and scent inside the store made it feel like it was stuck in time, never-changing.
It was a smaller store, offering snacks with sauce or ramen taste, chocolate sticks or jelly with old-school sweets, paper balloons, and masks, as well as cheap plastic tools.
It was colorful like a rainbow, but with all these goods lined up on the shelves, it was like we traveled back in time.
It’s like a retro store of sorts.
The older lady of the store had earned a lot more wrinkles since we were children, but she was still brimming with energy and watched over the young children bringing their snacks with a peaceful gaze.
We bought what we sought to get, and sat down on the bench outside the store.
“There’s only one thing to get during a hot summer day like this!”
Kazuhi raised it into the air, acting like it was a legendary item she’d just received in a certain game.
And of course, the item held tightly in her hand was a blue bottle—of ramune.
Pressing the pearl down, and dropping it into the liquid, you could hear it dissolving.
Taking a sip from the cold ramune, a sweet and carbonated liquid danced inside your mouth.
Despite it getting close to evening, the sky was still blue, as the ramune bottle shone even brighter as it was illuminated by the sun.
This is what summer’s all about.
And this is probably what you would call melancholic.
“It’s so delicious! Right, Sou-chan?”
Sure takes me back, too.”
“We used to have this a lot when we were kids…Man, summer breaks back in elementary school were so much fun.
Hunting insects, looking for crayfish, always together…”
“I know I’m not one to talk since I dragged you along, but that was all stuff boys would usually do.
Was that even fun?”
“It was! I was so excited when we caught a stag beetle! And getting all dirty while looking for crayfish was fun, too.”
“…When you say that with such a smile, I’m getting only more worried.
You get along with your other friends?”
“Of course! We’re in the same class, so aren’t you seeing that?”
“I mean, I am, but…”
Rather than me, who only has one friend with the name of Weirdo Yousuke, Kazuhi’s actually pretty popular.
She’s not the type to pull others along or anything, but she usually ends up the unsung hero.
Maybe I don’t have to worry about her friendships, after all.
However, unlike me, who just says what he thinks, she tends to hold back and show restraint when it comes to her own feelings.
“Well…If anything ever comes up, you can always come to me.”
Granted, I don’t know if there’s anything I could even do for her (even if Kazuhi isn’t the type to retort on that), but I can at least hear her out.
It’s better than letting her worry all on her own.
“Yeah! Thanks! But, I’m okay.
All my friends are good people, and we promised to watch a movie together this summer break.”
“A movie? What’s it about?”
“Um, it’s a romance movie.
And the girl only has three more months to live.”
It’s one of those tearjerkers, right? The biggest request of those is that it moves you to tears, which is mostly about a couple with one partner dying at the end.
“Yeah! It’s so romantic, and it makes me cry every time.”
“But that sounds so tragic and depressing.
How is that fun?”
“Fun…Well, it’s profound, and it makes you think.
What is life, and what does it mean to live.”
“That sounds so diligent.
A movie’s supposed to be an entertainment you enjoy, right? Should you really watch it with such a philosophical outlook?”
“But, people don’t only die in movies, right? And a tragedy usually arrives suddenly.
And it makes me think about what I would do if I was in that sort of situation.”
She’s just a lot more sensitive than me.
She picks up the feelings of the character on the screen, treating their problems like her own.
She easily gets invested, is what you could call it.
“There are so many movies where people die, right? But the answers those people find are all different in so many ways.
When they lose someone important, they need to find a reason to keep going.
Some say that their lost one would want them to live on, whereas others have their family and friends they have to keep going for.
Others keep on living because…it’s just what they have to do.
Finding hope amidst despair is what really makes me think.”
“The answer they come up with…So it’s more like the process rather than the result.”
“If you were in their position, what would you do? Your girlfriend only has a few months to live or something like that.”
“Me…? Well, honestly, it’s not something I’d like to think about.”
Since Kazuhi’s so serious about it, I wanted to respond in an equal fashion, but…it’s just hard to imagine.
“And I don’t have to think about either, since I don’t have a girlfriend! Hah!”
Before imagining the loss of a loved one, I couldn’t even see myself getting a girlfriend in the first palace.
“But, losing someone important to you…is bound to be painful.
And it’ll take a long time before that wound can heal.”
“Yeah…” Kazuhi gulped down the rest of her ramune, almost as if she wanted to cut off the conversation.
And then, her eyes shot wide open, like she spotted something.
I didn’t expect to spot her here…Also, is it just me, or is she walking toward us?”
Suzuya—Nobody at our school didn’t know that name.
“What are you on about? No way Suzuya would come to a sweets store like this—”
Black hair swaying along the summer breeze.
As our eyes met, I forgot to even breathe for a moment—Suzuya Hotaru.
She’s a student at our school, and even in the same year as us.
But, it’s almost like she belongs to a different world…like she just came to ours on a visit.
After all—her family is extremely rich.
Sure, you could wonder why a wealthy lady like her would attend our commoner school, but according to the rumors that reached me, her parents wanted her to learn how the real world worked, which is why they chose a school like ours.
And she wasn’t only wealthy, she only had the looks and body figure of a model or idol.
Her long hair looking like a black thread only added to the prim and proper impression she gave off.
All her facial features of hers looked like they were handcrafted, and her jet-black eyes stood out especially.
The contrast between these and her snow-white skin was breathtaking, and I consider her to have much greater artistic value than any vase or fruit sorbet.
“—Hello.” Her voice was clear like a bell, pleasant to listen to.
For a moment, I was awestruck, only to slowly realize that she might be talking to us.
“H-Hello!” Kazuhi snapped back to reality a tick faster than me, politely greeting Suzuya with a lowered head.
As the other person was like an idol at school, it was natural that she would be nervous.
I wasn’t much better.
“To meet you here…What a coincidence, Haruoka-kun, Amagase-san.”
“Huh? Y-You know us?”
“Of course I do, we’re in the same year.”
“That’s true, but…We’re in different classes, and we never even talked before, no?”
“Yes, that’s true.
But I know you two, as you are quite famous.”
“F-Famous? We are?”
That boy who’s with you…Kusama-kun.
He always brings the weirdest things to school, causing a ruckus in the process, right? One day, he talked about summoning a spirit, which filled the entire school with smoke, and when the teacher scolded him, he said ‘This was necessary to summon the strongest spirit! And if I have that, I could even rule the whole world,’ which really stuck with me…”
“Ah, well…I’m sorry about that stupid friend of mine.”
Leaving aside Kazuhi and me, Yousuke really stands out.
And since he’s a weirdo, it’s all in a bad way, of course.
“Why are you apologizing? It’s not like he’s hurt people, and I enjoy watching the ruckus he causes.
Not to mention…”
“Not to mention?”
“When that happened, you spoke to the teacher, right? Saying ‘Sensei, it’s fine to scold him as much as you like, but he’s just an idiot, not a bad person…A bit too much of an idiot, but that’s beside the point.’ And then you helped him clean up after, too.”
“Ah…That may have happened.”
Her warm and pleasant gaze made me feel itchy all over.
I didn’t do it because we’re friends or anything, I just would have felt bad leaving him alone to clean up all that mess.
“Also, you remember that?”
“I told you, it stuck with me.
I’ve been meaning to talk to you at least once.”
“That…is an honor, I guess?”
“It’s nothing special, you know? Just like you know about me, I know a fair bit about you.
That’s all there is to it.”
That might be true, but hearing that from the celebrity at our school…someone who is admired by everyone, honestly scares me a bit.
“More importantly, what brings you here, Suzuya?”
Some old-fashioned and outdated sweets store isn’t a place where a rich lady like Suzuya would normally be visiting.
And I don’t think her house is in this direction, either.
“Huh? W-Well…I learned about the existence of this store a while back…and I never came to such an establishment before, shamefully so.”
“Well, I would have guessed as much.
But that’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
I’m assuming you wanted to check it out today?”
“Y-Yes…I was quite intrigued by it.
That’s why I wanted to see it with my own eyes once…Would it be okay for me to enter? Or do they need a reservation?”
“It’s not some high-class restaurant that’s booked out for most of the year.
You can just enter,” I explained, but Suzuya still seemed fairly hesitant, seeming nervous to set foot inside.
For that reason, Kazuhi and I decided to tag along.
Seeing us, the elderly lady at the cash register greeted us with a warm “Welcome.”
“Wow…So many sweets I’ve never even seen…”
To us, nostalgia is overwhelmingly strong, though.
But for a rich lady like her, all this must be entirely new.
And I don’t mean that in a degrading way.
Seeing her look around like an excited kid contracted her usual attitude, and it was honestly quite cute.
“…By the way.”
“I’ve been curious about it for a while now…But what is it that you’re holding?”
“Ah, this? It’s called ramune.
A sweet carbonated drink.”
“Oh…It looks so refreshing.
How wonderful…” She stared at the ramune bottle in my hand.
“…Wanna try a sip? Ah, wait.”
That was close.
Usually I’m pretty nonchalant whenever Kazuhi’s involved, but we’re talking about Suzuya here.
She’ll think of me as a pervert if I force this onto her.
However, I can’t just say no either, so I turned to Kazuhi.
“Kazuhi, can you let her try a sip from yours?”
Here you go, Suzuya-san.”
“Really? Thank you.” She accepted the bottle and took a sip.
Yeah, I’m sure of it now.
Suzuya’s the type of person who’ll say “I’ve never had something as delicious as this!” when trying her first bowl of ramen.
Her eyes will be sparkling during that entire time, too.
It’s an absolute template when dealing with rich ladies like her.
But even so, her expression right now is something I won’t get tired of.
“But you have some too, Kazuhi.”
This time, I offered my own bottle of ramune to Kazuhi.
I was the one who basically said to hand hers over to Suzuya.
At this rate, I’m just a stingy idiot who’s not willing to share.
“Hm? Why’d you scream like that?”
“This is what?”
“An indirect…N-No, nevermind! Don’t mind me!” Kazuhi blushed furiously as she waved her hands and took a sip from my ramune.
It should still be cold, so it hopefully helps her cool down a bit…or so I thought.
“…S-Sure is hot, huh?” Her cheeks were beet red, and I could practically see steam rising from her head.
“You okay? You’re not going through a heat stroke, are you?”
“N-No! This isn’t…what you think…!”
Suddenly, I heard a faint snickering voice next to me.
Turning around, I saw Suzuya looking at us with a faint smile on her face.
“Don’t mind me.
I just felt a bit jealous.”
“Hee hee, it’s nothing.”
After that, Suzuya went to try some of the sweets in the store and bought a bag full.
Finishing her purchase, she showed a satisfied grin.
“With all these sweets bought, I think I shall excuse myself now.
I’m sorry for obstructing your time together,” she said and walked down the path she came as her long black hair fluttered.
Kazuhi watched her walk off and then mumbled something in a daze.
“Wow…That was my first time speaking to Suzuya-san, but she wasn’t at all as arrogant as you’d expect from a rich lady.
Ah, I really admire her.
I want to be like her.”
“Kazuhi, your eyes are sparkling way too much.”
“But can you blame me? You also think that she’s beautiful and a great person, no?”
“Well…I do, I guess?”
I never talked with her before, and although she can be a bit sheltered of a rich lady, she’s a lot more open and frank than I thought she’d be, and she seems like an interesting person.
Then again, I wouldn’t even think of dating her.
She’s like an unattainable flower to me.
I’d just be scared of placing a flower like her in a dull flower pot.
She should bloom in total freedom instead.
“Yeah…I guess you would…”
Hearing my words, Kazuhi seemed like she was lost in thought and took a sip from the ramune in her hands.
It was a sweet carbonated drink, filling the blue and translucent bottle, but the bubbles had long disappeared.
July 8th was a Monday.
I managed to miraculously accomplish my quota of waking up on time once every three days, changing into my uniform, and leaving my home after eating breakfast.
As always, Kazuhi was already waiting for me.
It was the same scenery I’d grown so accustomed to, and yet—my eyes shot wide open.
Something was off about Kazuhi, as she stood beneath the bright blue sky.
Kazuhi is always smiling.
Whether something good happened, or not.
She’d always smile through everything.
When she’s angry, she’d pout at you, but she always cheers up immediately after eating something sweet, back to her usual grin…And yet, none of that was the case with Kazuhi right now.
Her eyes were damp like water would come gushing out with a single touch.
She wasn’t crying, but it seemed as if she was trying really hard to not let it go that far.
It reminded me of a cloudy sky right before a shower.
That she would just break if left alone.
That the light inside her eyes would soon vanish—That’s the empty, but equally dangerous impression her eyes gaze of.
“…What’s wrong?! D-Did I do something bad?!”
“Then what is it?! Are you hurting anywhere?! Should we go to the hospital?”
“It’s already too…”
“F-Forget it,” she said with a face about to break out in tears, almost like she wanted to reassure me.
“I just…had a scary dream.
“That’s a lie.”
“Waaah, you saw through me immediately…”
“Because you suck at lying.
So, out with it.
“You’re like a police officer telling me to confess…”
“…Enough joking around.
I’ll hear you out, and if there’s anything I can do, just ask.
We can even skip school today if you want, yeah?”
Kazuhi’s eyes were still wet, but she forced herself to smile.
She must be close to breaking out in tears, and she kept it in as if her life depended on it.
“No, I’m okay.
Sorry, just forget about it.”
Something’s definitely not right.
But after she wiped her eyes once, she put her hands into fists.
“And also! Seeing you now gave me so much more energy! That’s…the truth.”
“Sure, sure, but…”
“I’m saying it’s okay, so that’s enough of this! Let’s talk about something more exciting!” Kazuhi cut off my words and raised one index finger.
“It’s almost summer break, right?!”
“Huh? Yeah, I guess?”
“And summer break equals one important part of your youth.
Your one and only.
Especially this time around because it’s our first summer as high school students.”
“What are you talking about…?”
“Put simply, you’re in high school, Sou-chan.
“I think you should get yourself a girlfriend!”
First she’s close to crying, and now this? What is going on here?
“What did you smoke? You’re acting as weird as never before.”
“But I’m always weird, right?”
“Don’t call yourself weird.
And compared to the other folks around me, you’re clearly more level-headed.”
If she was a weirdo, I’d keep a definite wall between us.
Like I do with Yousuke, Yousuke, or even Yousuke.
“Why would you try to get me a girlfriend?”
“W-Well…You know…I’m in high school, too! I’m interested in love and all that!”
“Then get yourself a boyfriend first?”
“I…I don’t need one! Rather than being a part of it, I much prefer watching it from the sidelines! It’s more fun that way!”
“Don’t broadly confess that you’re just a curious onlooker.”
“Anyway! It’s what I’ve decided!” Kazuhi puffed out her chest as she proudly declared that.
“I’ll make sure you get yourself a wonderful girlfriend and live a happy life!”
And with that as the starting point, Kazuhi was somehow out of it the whole day.
The whole girlfriend talk had me baffled, but I figured she’d just eaten something bad, and assumed she would eventually go back to normal—However, that face was like she was about to break out in tears…I really struggled to just swallow that and move on.
If she really is that against telling me, then I wouldn’t be right forcing it out of her.
I just want to be of help when she really needs it.
And while my thoughts drifted around and about this topic, school ended, and Kazuhi called out to me.
“It’s time to put our plan into motion!”
“C’mon! We have to start with our first step of the Lovey-Dovey Honey Acquisition Plan!”
How about we do something about that lame-ass name first?”
“No can do! C’mon, come with me.”
Just what has gotten into her? But since I knew something was off, I couldn’t just leave her alone either, so I unwillingly tagged along.
We then moved to the classroom of class 1-1, where she peeked inside and called out to a certain individual.
…Wait, Suzuya?! I mean, we talked with her the other day in front of the sweets store, but that was a one-time thing, and I don’t see us as being close enough to talk.
This kind of move requires some serious guts, I swear.
Even the folks in Suzuya’s class were bewildered and talked amongst themselves.
They must be surprised that someone would just talk to Suzuya like this.
“Ah, Amagase-san, Haruoka-kun.”
And yet, the person in question didn’t seem bothered at all.
In fact, she seemed somewhat delighted.
That fact brought even greater disarray to the surrounding classmates.
“She called out to Suzuya-san…?”
“What relationship do they have…?”
“I’m so jealous…”
These were all faint murmurs I could pick up, barely reaching even us out here.
I’m glad we got to meet again.”
“Hey hey! Say, do you have time after this?” Kazuhi asked, to which Suzuya blinked a few times, seeming surprised.
And honestly, I had a similar reaction.
She was so nervous in front of her last time, and yet she’s acting like they’re best friends.
I don’t have any particular plans for today.”
“Great! I actually found a place you might like, so I wondered if you wanted to tag along.”
Suzuya blinked again a few times.
I’m not really that familiar with Suzuya as a person, but I don’t think she regularly has an expression like this.
After all, she usually seems like a flawless beauty that couldn’t be thrown off by anything.
“…Really? You’re…inviting me?”
“Of course! I’d love you to join us!”
“I-I see…I’m happy, but…won’t I just get in the way?”
“Not at all! Isn’t that right, Sou-chan?”
“Huh? Sure…You’re not in the way.
We’re just childhood friends, nothing more.”
“Exactly! So no worries, Suzuya-san.”
Kazuhi kept on reassuring Suzuya, saying stuff like ‘We’re not dating!’ or ‘Don’t worry!’ and so on.
With that discussed, I have to wonder if Suzuya will really tag along.
Surprisingly enough, she smiled gently and agreed.
“Then…I’ll take you up on this kind after and join you.”
“Over here! Suzuya-san!” Kazuhi called out to the girl, acting like a puppy who found something it considered interesting and brought it to the owner.
Suzuya’s eyes lit up, her cheeks colored in a faint pink, as she looked around herself in a daze.
It’s like she gazed at a beautiful field of flowers—But of course, reality isn’t a fairytale.
What stood ahead of us was a regular meat shop.
After school, we headed to a regular communal business district.
And the butcher stood at a regular corner surrounded by a stationery and hardware store.
Why’d you drag Suzuya here of all places?”
This isn’t a store that would be of interest to a girl if you ask me.
In fact, she would have all the right to get angry at Kazuhi for being dragged here.
Granted, Suzuya might be enjoying this simply for the fact that she hadn’t come here before, but still…
“I wanted Suzuya-san to try this right here!” Kazuhi said and pointed at a tray of croquettes.
This meat shop actually specialized in croquettes.
You could also buy them from regular convenience stores, but they can’t beat the ones from an actual butcher…But even so, this really isn’t a place where you should bring a delicate girl like her.
“It’s a bit cooler today, so let’s eat these at the nearby park!”
“Wow…Taking a detour on the way home to eat something at the park…Amazing…It’s like the plot of a novel.”
“I’m pretty sure that the days you live would provide much more material for a novel than whatever mundane daily lives we live.”
We exchanged these few words, as we all bought croquettes for each of us, moving to the public park near here.
And because Suzuya was that much of a beauty, the old man at the store even gave us some extra croquettes.
Good-looking people really do be living life on easy mode.
“Suzuya-san, should we sit on that beach near that tree?”
“That does sound wonderful, but…”
“…I’d like to sit on the swing, first.
I never tried it out before…Or would that be too weird considering my age?”
“Not at all! I think it’s cute! Though…there’s only two swings.
Okay, Sou-chan! You sit down!”
“No, it’s fine.
I’m just gonna stand.”
Down you go.”
Kazuhi seemed oddly hesitant, as I half-forcefully pushed her down on the swing.
I can’t sit on the swing while she’s standing around.
That’d be way too embarrassing.
I grabbed two steaming croquettes from the plastic bag and handed them to the girls.
Kazuhi also took the bag with the extras, placing it on her lap.
The croquettes looked absolutely delicious, fried in a strong orange color and perfectly crispy as you love to see them.
Suzuya’s gaze was practically glued to the food in her hand, as she could barely contain her excitement.
“I can just…eat it like this, right?”
You don’t need a fork or knife.
Watch,” I said as I bit into my croquette, which created a strong and distinct crunching noise, as the spongy consistency of potatoes mixed with the juicy taste of meat filled my mouth.
Yeah, the best ingredients make the absolute best taste.
Not satisfied by just one bite, I went for another.
Ah, I won’t be able to stop myself at this rate.
Seeing me munch on my food, Suzuya visibly gulped, pushed her black hair behind one ear, and bit into the croquette.
Even just that act alone looked so dignified and graceful, it was getting comical.
Since she had her mouth full of croquettes, she couldn’t properly express herself, but her red cheeks and stars in her eyes basically screamed ‘Delicious!’
“Hee hee, me time!” Kazuhi didn’t want to be left out and stuffed her cheeks with her own croquette.
“Hey! You have a sensitive tongue, so be careful!”
The two thoroughly enjoyed their croquettes, as their cheeks and eyes reflected absolute bliss.
“Ahh…This is wonderful…I could get addicted to this…” Suzuya kept on munching on her croquette as her face melted away.
She’s really getting into this.
It’s honestly…pretty hot.
“You guys are eating this like it’s the best food on earth.”
“Are you really one to talk? You got me all invested, too, Haruoka-kun!”
“Heh! Tastiness is justice!”
“Isn’t that right, Amagase-san? I have never eaten something like this, so I couldn’t help getting emotional.”
“I totally get it, Suzuya.
Eating this for the first time is just refreshing…But Kazuhi, we’ve eaten these countless times before, what are you getting so engrossed in?”
“Huh? B-Because…I haven’t had these in such a long time!”
“We’re regularly eating these, right? Even too much, if you ask me.”
“Ugh…Sh-Shut up! Croquettes are just potatoes! Potatoes are vegetables! And they’re healthy, so shush!”
I was aware that this exchange was very mundane, but I felt relieved.
Kazuhi was eating the croquettes just fine, getting angry at my retorts, while stuffing her cheeks like a hamster.
And yet, the fact that she almost cried this morning really stuck with me.
I still don’t know why.
But even so, I was relieved that we could keep acting this way.
“I have to say, there’s a lot of children running around.” Suzuya reached for another croquette as she looked at the children with a somewhat jealous gaze.
Just as she stated, I could see a lot of kiddos playing catch now that school was over, or pretending to be characters from the currently running anime.
Their shrill voices could be heard all over the park.
That’s when one of the boys, probably in elementary school, fell over while running away.
Kazuhi shot up from the bench to run toward the boy.
“Are you okay?!”
He had seemingly scratched his knee, and blood appeared from the wound.
He tried his best, but you could tell he was about to break out in tears.
Kazuhi crouched down in front of him and tried to comfort him with a gentle voice.
“Does it hurt? Go and wash it off with some water.
I’ve got disinfectant and a bandaid with me, so we can take care of this quickly.” Kazuhi smiled at the boy, but he was not having any of that.
Well, I get it.
A boy his age is really sensitive when it comes to attention and receiving worry like this.
Take it too far, and he might feel like he’s getting bullied.
Even more so with his friends around.
I could already see him bursting out in anger, saying ‘This much is no problem!’ But, I know that Kazuhi will handle this.
And around the same time, more of the boys who played with the injured kid came to poke fun at him.
“What the hell? You really just tripped?”
“Ahaha, that’s so lame!”
Rather than actual bullying, it felt more like teasing, but the boy in question was already blushing furiously.
“S-Shut up! And you, I don’t need your help! This much is nothing!”
As expected, the boy vented his anger at Kazuhi, bushing her hand away.
However, she just grinned at him.
“Hee hee…Now, this won’t do.”
“Wh-What do you mean?”
“Because I…am Croquette Man!” She puffed out her chest to the point I could hear a sound effect fitting along.
Not to mention her smug face.
“Croquette Man is amazing, you know? Because when you eat some of these delicious croquettes, everyone will start smiling!”
“…Huh? Are you stupid? Who the hell is Croquette man?”
The boys were all giving Kazuhi cold stares, mixed with disgust and confusion.
They were probably wondering what a grown woman (relatively speaking from their view) like her was blurting out.
I could almost hear the snowy breeze passing us by.
But even so, Kazuhi continued to speak with a cheerful tone.
“C-Croquette Man fights for justice! And everything that is tasty is justice! Wanna try a bite?” Kazuhi grabbed the bag with the extra croquettes and offered them to the children, who couldn’t resist the crunchy goodness.
Their eyes bit into the food as their eyes turned into stars.
“Oh, what is this?!”
“Huh?! Gimme one, too!”
“This is seriously good.”
All their cold attitudes had vanished elsewhere, as they were fully engrossed in their food.
Granted, boys their age could be simple, and who could blame them for not winning against croquette? Croquettes are justice.
“Hey! Gimme some more!”
“Wah, wait a second! There won’t be enough for me left! Let’s go buy some—”
Seeing Kazuhi panic, Suzuya let out a snicker, got up from the swing, and walked toward the boys.
“You can have some of mine.”
“Woooooah?! Such a beauty!”
“Nice to meet you.
I’m Croquette Man No.
2, at your service.”
Hearing Suzuya’s self-introduction, I almost spit out the food in my mouth.
What does No.
2 even mean? But the boys didn’t mind, as they continued to happily munch on their croquettes.
By the time they were done eating, they were grinning happily.
And while they were busy with that, Kazuhi finished treating the injured child using the disinfectant and bandaid she had on her.
Then again, the croquettes must be so delicious he had already forgotten all about the pain.
“Phew, that was delicious.
Thanks, beautiful lady!”
“And you too, weird but kinda cool Croquette Man!”
“You’re welcome! Everyone’s happy, so Croquette Man is happy, too!” Kazuhi grinned, only to realize she’d forgotten something.
“Ah, but! You actually shouldn’t accept random things from strangers! So be careful, okay?! And it’s not good to eat too much before dinner, so keep it to a minimum, yeah?”
“She gave us the croquettes and now she’s scolding us?”
“We know that already, duh!”
“But you’re wearing the same uniform as my older sister!”
“Also, these are the croquettes that are being sold in the business district, right?”
Kazuhi was simply worried as the older person in the situation, but the boys absolutely ripped her apart.
Sometimes, small brats aren’t just small brats, I guess.
“Anyway, MagiMon’s gonna start, so we gotta beat it!”
One of the boys said so.
This MagiMon referred to an anime currently popular with their generation.
You probably think it’s short for Magical Monsters, right? Gotcha, it’s actually Magical Montblanc.
Seriously, what the hell even?
“That makes sense! Anyway, see you around!”
“Bye bye!” Kazuhi didn’t mind being made fun of and just saw them off with a smile.
Suzuya watched this happen with a warm gaze and gently rubbed Kazuhi’s head.
“W-What are you doing?”
I just wanted to do this because you’re such a wonderful person.”
“And I have to say, walking around with not only a bandaid but even disinfectant…You are so well-prepared, Amagase-san.”
“She always keeps them with her.
When we hung out all these years ago, we’d usually play outside.”
“Oh my…So you were caring for Haruoka-kun? How admirable…”
“Nope! I tend to fall over a lot, so it was all for my personal use!”
“…You are just adorable, Amagase-san.”
Watching Kazuhi blurt out a line that you’d normally be way too embarrassed to admit, Suzuya couldn’t help but smile.
“Hehe! I figured that a boy like him wouldn’t like any cute band aids, so I used one with a plane design, but I actually have a lot of cute ones, too! Look, flowers, or even water drops.”
“Oh, you’re right.
Where do they even sell this?”
“I found a really good general store! Wanna go there together sometime?”
“I’d love to.
I bet it’d be really fun with you, Amagase-san.”
“O-Oh man, you’re gonna make me blush.
But we might as well, sometime…” She spoke that far, only for her back to stretch straight.
“W-Wait, that’s not what I wanted!”
“Ah, um, well…Sorry, Suzuya-san, I just remembered something urgent that I had to take care of.”
“Something urgent? What exactly?”
“Huh? Um…Well, I promised to help someone from our neighborhood look for a lost cat! You two just have fun without me!”
“Wait, let me help you.
It’ll be more efficient than running around all by yourself.”
“N-No need for that! I can’t let you do such a thing, Suzuya-san!”
“Then I’ll help you,” I jumped in.
“Huh?! Um…Um…I’m fine! I love searching for cats! It’s my hobby!”
“I see, I see.
But don’t worry, I like cats, too.
And I like dogs and goldfish, too.”
“Huh? Um…Well…” Kazuhi grew more flustered by the minute.
She just continued stuttering and repeating words like “Um” and “Well” to no end, until she eventually lowered her head.
“Um…I’m sorry, I was lying.”
She’s just so obvious.
And judging from what she said this morning, she probably wants me and Suzuya to end up alone together.
“I won’t stop you if you really have something to take care of…But if not, then could we stay here a bit longer?”
“Well, there’s not much to do, though,” I commented.
“We can just talk.
Taking a detour on the way home to talk like this…It feels like a dream.”
I’m pretty sure she’s exaggerating quite a bit there.
But, she smiled brightly as she lowered her eyes and continued.
“I never would have imagined you would invite me like this.
And just being here…makes me incredibly happy.”
“Hehe, I’m glad you feel that way.
And we’ll only invite you more from now on, okay? We’re friends, after all.”
Listening to Kazuhi’s words paired with her bright smile, Suzuya’s face froze up for a moment, only for her cheeks to turn faintly red.
“And also…I kinda want you and Sou-chan to be more than just friends…!”
“…More than just friends? Like, best friends? Because then, I’d love for you and me to become best friends, too, Amagase-san…”
“Welp, don’t mind her, Suzuya.
She’s just a bit crazy in the head, so don’t take her too seriously.”
Before she could run her mouth any further, I opted to silence her forcefully by placing my hand over her mouth.
She seemingly didn’t like that, because she growled in a voice that was intangible.
Watching us fight, Suzuya’s expression softened.
Since it was still summer, the sky was blue, and the sun was high.
And her smile, illuminated by the sun, was stunningly beautiful.
“Hee hee…Then, let’s be good friends, Amagase-san, Haruoka-kun.”
“Hehehe…Today sure was fun, right, Sou-chan?”
It was something else, Croquette Man.”
“S-Stop calling me that already!”
“You started it.
And you seemed pretty excited about it, too.”
“Th-That was just…I wanted everyone to smile, so…!”
You’re a kind soul, after all.”
I gently caressed Kazuhi’s head.
As always, it was like a small animal’s, which made rubbing it so much more enjoyable.
“Ah…Ugh…I’m…not…” Kazuhi tried to say something with a quivering voice, as she formed fists with both her hands.
“M-More importantly! Do you think this was enough for the starting point of the Lovey-Dovey Honey Acquisition Plan I cooked up for you?”
“Seriously, can you do something about that name already?”
“Well, you got to the starting line as friends…But it doesn’t seem like there was much going on romantically.
No clue if her affection for you went up because of today.”
“Hey, hey, hey…”
“But, you at least have a chance to see her again, right? And we just have to show Suzuya-san how charming you can be!”
“Hey, Kazuhi! Wait a second!”
“Are you…seriously trying to get me and Suzuya together?”
I bet you’d be happy to have such a great girlfriend, right?”
“Now hold on.
Do you really think Suzuya of all people would fall for me?”
Don’t respond to my question with zero delay.
How am I supposed to react to that?
“Now listen here…You’d need a rich and handsome but also kind man if you want to match with her.
She’s loved by everyone, how would I stand a chance?”
“You’re exaggerating! You’re really cool, too! And you’re kind…I think you’d be a good match with Suzuya-san!”
“…O-Oh? Wait, pause! You’re just biased as my childhood friend! Wake up! I’m as average as it gets! And Suzuya’s the unattainable flower!”
“Not true, not true! And…I think it’s exactly because she’s regarded as the unattainable flower that she’s easier to bring down.”
“I mean, she’s almost too perfect, like she came from a different world, which makes it hard for people to approach her, no? There are a lot of people who have a crush on her, but they’re all just watching from afar.
And from what I heard, nobody has even tried confessing to her.”
“Well, that’s true.
I haven’t heard any stories about that either.”
Everybody felt admiration toward her, but nobody would selfishly assume that they could keep her to themselves.
Talking to her like this, you realize how friendly and open-minded she is.
However, it takes a lot of effort to even get that first step started.
“So, Sou-chan! You have to take that as an opportunity and approach Suzuya-san as aggressively as possible! Because if everything works out, you will—”
“What do you mean?”
“Why do you want us both to get together, anyway?”
My love life isn’t anything of Kazuhi’s concern, and I just don’t get where that even came from.
“Your happiness…is my happiness.”
That makes no sense.
But Kazuhi didn’t seem like she was lying.
She just looked me in the eyes.
“You know…I want you to become the happiest person in the world.”
“…The happiest in the whole world? That’s some insane scale, there.”
You’re my precious childhood friend, so you have to become the happiest in the entire world.”
“I have to?”
“You have to,” Kazuhi puffed out her chest.
Can you really…be so proud while saying that? I think it’s utterly ridiculous, but I couldn’t say that.
Because when she uttered her wish, I could see her eyes growing wet once more.
It’s like she had decided to do the best she could in this very situation…It was a very complicated smile.
I wonder why? I was scared to take the next step and cross the line to ask, so I simply stayed silent.
“Sou! It’s lunch break! Wanna eat? Or wanna summon a fairy?”
The following day during lunch break, I was leaning on my desk and grumbling about the heat when Yousuke came to annoy me even further.
“What are these two choices? Do you want a beating?”
“I mean, our occult club met up yesterday, but they said we need some more people for the ritual.
Sou, wanna join the occult club?”
“If you quit the club, I wouldn’t mind.”
“That basically means you’d do anything just so that you don’t end up in the same club as me, right?!”
Yet another moronic conversation was about to ensue when a voice called out to me.
One that I didn’t hear too often up to now.
The voice belonged to a girl from my class, who had another girl right behind her.
Then again, we’re not particularly close, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time we even properly talked.
“Is it true that you went home yesterday with Suzuya-san?”
For a moment, I prepared myself for any possible interrogation, but that’s what they wanted to ask.
They were even leaning forward because of their sheer curiosity.
But Kazuhi was with us, and all we did was eat croquettes at a public park.”
“Waaah! That’s plenty amazing, already! Or rather, it sounds unbelievable! We’re talking about the same Suzuya-san, right?! Just being with her is like a miracle!”
Just breathing the same air as her makes me incredibly nervous…Ah, I’m not making fun of you or anything?! I just thought it was weird that you could be relatively normal around her.”
“We all, as well as the people from her class, get all tense when we simply pass each other in the hallway.”
“I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but we’re all in the same year, so you don’t need to treat her like some goddess.”
“But, but…She feels like she’s from a different world, no? Looking at her just turns my head to mush!”
“I would consider it impolite to just randomly talk to her.”
Impolite…What is she, some queen?
“You don’t have to worry all that much.
Suzuya’s pretty easy to talk to…if you try, that is.”
“Yeah, that’s true.
She is a beauty and a perfect human being who’s even rich, and she doesn’t seem like a bad person, but…I just can’t!”
“Even just the air she gives off…Or aura? We regular citizens don’t dare to approach her.
Might even just call it a barrier.”
“I do admire her, though.
But…I can only watch from afar!”
The two sighed.
For some reason, they seem to think that they aren’t allowed to approach Suzuya without a proper reason.
“Sorry to suddenly ask you about this, Haruoka-kun.
We just heard that Suzuya-san went home with a boy, and since that never happened before, we just had to ask.
Sorry for bothering you.”
After asking everything they wanted to know, the girls left the classroom, presumably to eat lunch.
At the same time, Yousuke approached me with an eerily curious expression.
“What did I just hear? Sou, you went home with Suzuya-san yesterday? Why do I only hear about this now?!”
“Like I said before, Kazuhi was with us, and we just ate croquettes.”
“But…just having her around is pretty amazing if you ask me! And also, you should tell me about that sooner! I didn’t know about this until like a few minutes ago!”
“It’s not something that I’d have to report to you, is it?”
“What are you saying? You’ve got a top-class childhood friend with Kazuhi-chan already, and yet you’re going for another girl! Are you going for the harem ending?”
“This isn’t a gal game.
Also, Kazuhi was the one who put that entire meeting together, y’know.”
“But, imagine that! A harem end! Rather than choosing one heroine, you instead opt to make everyone happy! Isn’t that guy way too lucky? To be honest, I’m so friggin ‘jealous! What about my jealousy, huh?!”
“Shut up! You go summon some devil or evil deity and get along with them!”
As we once again exchanged mindless banter, Kazuhi pulled on my sleeve.
Her eyes were sparkling, telling me that I should be terrified for my life.
“It’s lunch break.
Time to execute stage two of our plan!”
“Right, I actually just remembered something urgent I had to do, so I’m heading home now.”
“N-No you can’t! You’re not allowed to skip classes!”
“But it’s important.
I have to look for a runaway cat.”
“E-Enough about the cat already!”
“You brought it up.”
“Aaaaaaaanyway! Lunch break.
Time to eat.
In other words, it’s the time that gives birth to love!”
“Are you high?”
“With that said, let’s move on to stage two! Lovey-dovey lunch time!”
“Like I said, fix your weird naming sense first.”
Yousuke observed my exchange with Kazuhi and then tilted his head in confusion.
“Huh? What’s this about? I heard something about lovey-dovey and plan or whatever, but…do you plan on seducing Sou? I mean, I get you’re the heroine who’s predestined to lose, but there’s no reason to give up from the start.
I know it might be hard as a loser heroine, but still…”
“What’s a loser heroine even supposed to mean?! And why did you repeat your point?!”
I really do…Being the childhood friend is almost always a losing bet, especially for a type like you who gets all the attention stolen from another heroine.
Lately, it’s all about the lively tsunderes or those with crazy attributes that take the W…A childhood friend is just cursed to lose.
I will cry for you…”
“I don’t really get what you’re talking about, but stop giving me that look of pity! A-Anyway, Sou-chan! We should go and invite Suzuya-san out to eat lunch! You usually get stuff from the school store…But I made sure to prepare a lunch box for you just for today!”
“Like I said, Suzuya and I aren’t going to happen.”
“But yesterday, we became friends with her, right? And it’s perfectly normal for friends to eat lunch together, yeah? I’m sure she’ll be happy!”
“Well…I bet it could be fun to hang out…as friends.”
“Right, right! As friends! You always start with being friends, after all!”
I don’t think we’re really on the same wavelength, but Kazuhi is showing no intention of stepping down from this.
I get it.
Let’s go over to her class.”
“Phew…A flower in both hands, eh? Just go and explode, you damn normie.”
“The hell are you on about? You’re coming with us, Yousuke.”
If I actually eat lunch with two girls, one of them being Suzuya no less, then the boys will come to assassinate me.
I need him to come with us.
“Huh? Well, I’m pretty jealous of your position, but I’m supposed to be the best friend character who can read the mood.
I’m not such a brute to invade your joyful lunchtime with the heroine.
Because we friend characters have a line we can’t cross no matter what!”
“Stop thinking like this is some gal game! Wake up! This is reality!”
“Sou-chan! If we don’t hurry, our lunch break is gonna end!”
I wanted to give Yousuke some more piece of my mind, but Kazuhi just dragged me to Suzuya’s classroom.
“You’d like to eat lunch together? Of course, I would be delighted.”
Despite the sudden invitation, Suzuya seemed more than happy and agreed.
As before, I could hear the faint mumbling of her classmates.
“Eating lunch with Suzuya-san…?!”
“I’m so…so jealous…!”
But of course, Kazuhi didn’t mind that in the slightest.
“Suzuya-san, where would you like to eat? We can choose an empty classroom, or the courtyard, even.
It’s pleasant outside today.”
“Well…I always eat on the rooftop, so why don’t we head there?”
“You always eat on the rooftop? But, the door’s locked, right?”
“Actually, I have the key for it.” Suzuya took out a key from her pocket.
“I enjoy watching sceneries from high places, so I asked my father to talk with our teacher and provide one for me.”
As expected of a rich lady.
The special treatment is no joke.
And with that decided, we headed for the rooftop to eat lunch together.
Since this place was usually off-limits for us regular students, I’d actually never stepped through the steel door before.
But when that door opened, I was greeted by what felt like an endless blue sky.
The scorching sunlight worried me that I might break out in a sweat in seconds, but sitting in the shadows was actually a lot more comfortable than I thought.
And personally, I like the sky during summer.
I just can’t deal with the heat.
The blue sky, even clouds filling it, it just feels like a season full of virtue.
Right next to the door, we spotted a single plastic chair.
I’m guessing this is where Suzuya would usually spend her time, eating lunch or reading a book.
“Ah, you’ve got a chair for yourself, Suzuya-san? Since I figured we’d eat in the courtyard, I brought a picnic sheet with me.”
“Really? Then I’d prefer that.
Eating like it’s a picnic sounds fun.”
We placed the sheet on the rooftop floor, placing our lunch on top of that.
It does feel like a picnic.
By the way, Suzuya’s lunch box had several layers.
In terms of size, it was something even a girl like her could eat just fine, but everything about it looked so luxurious and extravagant.
She really is playing the role of a rich lady perfectly.
If you see anything you like, feel free to grab a piece, Suzuya-san.” Kzuhi opened the lid of her lunch box, which was a tad bit bigger than usual.
“The rice balls are filled with pickled plums and katsuoboshi1 and mayonnaise with tuna.
As an additional dish, I have mini hamburger steaks, rolled omelet, octopus wieners, rolled cabbage with bacon…”
The menu itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but that’s what made it feel so reassuring to have.
Each of the individual dishes looked absolutely delicious, but the play of colors and positioning created a painting that made just looking at it exciting.
“Wow…You made this, Amagase-san? You must be such a good cook.”
“Hehe…I actually worked really hard, hoping that you’d try some of the things.”
“The rolled omelet looks especially delicious.
Would you mind if I took one?”
“Not at all! But…just wait a moment!”
Stopping Suzuya, Kazuhi raised her index finger with a smug face.
“Tadaaaa! It’s fortune-telling time!”
“And for this long-haired beauty, I have just the thing! If you and someone else feed each other today, you’ll find happiness!”
“That’s not fortune-telling…”
“It is! The legendary fortune teller Kazuhitina said so!”
“Did you get infected by Yousuke’s nonsense?”
“It sounds interesting.
I just have to feed someone with my food, right?”
“That’s right! Just push it onto them!”
Open wide, Amagase-san.” Suzuya smiled as she pushed a piece of food in the direction of Kazuhi.
“Ah…Um, Suzuya-san, you shouldn’t be doing that with me…”
“Like I said, I’m not the…”
“Aaaaaah,” Suzuya said as she smiled, showing determination to not back down from this.
Meanwhile, Kazuhi hesitated for a moment, but eventually broke and opened her mouth.
“How is it? My trusted cook made it for me.”
“Y-Yeah, it’s delicious…!” Kazuhi chewed on the food, observed by Suzuya.
“Hee hee…How adorable.
Your fortune-telling was right, I feel incredibly happy right now…”
I feel like I could see white flowers growing behind them.
Seeing two girls eating lunch like this…tickles me jimmies.
“But now, it’s your turn, Amagase-san.
Go and feed Haruoka-kun.”
“Wha…Huh?! Wh-What are you talking about?!”
“Hm? Did I say something weird? If we’re going in order, that should be next, no? I just fed you, after all.
So now, you should feed Haruoka-kun.”
“Wh-Why would things turn out this way?! That makes no sense!”
“Why wouldn’t they? We’re all eating lunch here.
Or do you plan on making Haruoka-kun feel like an outcast?”
“N-No! Not at all! In fact, I’m doing this for his sake…”
“Then I think you should feed Haruoka-kun now.
It’s the order of things, and you can’t break the rules.”
That explanation…sounded a bit iffy at best, but Kazuhi went quiet and mumbled something under her breath.
“…I-If this is the order then…Sou-chan will have to feed you after I’m done?”
“O-Okay! Sou-chan!” Kazuhi grabbed a small hamburger steak with her chopsticks and carried it to my mouth.
And with a troubled but equally embarrassed look in her eyes, cheeks red, she tilted her head.
“H-Hurry up and open your mouth…!”
You say that, but let me just organize my thoughts.
She must feel embarrassed at doing this in public because her hands were starting to shake.
What even is this messy situation? If you’re so embarrassed, then just don’t do it?!
“H-Hey, can you please? Hurry…Ouch?!”
As she began to shake more violently, I gave her a light chop on the head.
“Wh-What was that for?!”
“Nothing here makes sense.
And I’m not doing it.”
“No way! I tried so hard, though…!”
“Like I care.
Sorry about this, Suzuya.
She’s just at that age,” I spoke like her parents, forcing Kazuhi to lower her head, as she growled like a scolded puppy.
In fact, I think it’s adorable.” Suzuya snickered.
Like this, the whole feeding fortune-telling was canceled, and we simply started eating our respective lunches.
The air was pleasant, with no love nonsense around, which allowed us to have a chill lunch, only for Kazuhi to once again bring up another topic.
“S-Still…it’s almost summer break, right?!”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“It’s summer! The season for passion and romance! The season of excitement!”
“Ah…So, what about it?” I asked.
“I was thinking that maybe you two should hang out somewhere.
Like an amusement park or the aquarium!”
“Oh my, that sounds wonderful! We three should definitely go somewhere!”
“I-I…I’m actually going to Hawaii this summer break! So I don’t think I could join you.”
“First time I heard of that, y’know?”
“I-I just told you! I’m gonna be real busy this summer break! I won’t have much time to hang around with you guys!”
“Yet another blatant lie! And didn’t you say you’d be watching a movie with friends?!”
“Huh? Ah, hm…?”
“Oh my, really? What movie is it?”
Suzuya asked Kazuhi with stars in her eyes, but she grew flustered.
What is she even doing?
“It’s the one with the heroine who only has a few years to live.
The tearjerker one.”
“Oh, I see.
Yeah, they regularly release movies like that.”
“You like those, Suzuya? Not trying to bash your taste, but personally, I don’t get the appeal behind it.”
I’m sure it’s related to taste and interests, but when dealing with entertainment, it has to distract me from the real world.
I don’t see the point if I feel like crap after watching something depressing.
“Well, tragedies are used frequently when it comes to storytelling.
Look at ‘The Little Mermaid,’ for example.
It doesn’t have to be an incurable disease to still create an oppressive yet beautiful conclusion.”
“That’s fine and dandy, but I just prefer happy endings.”
“Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of people like that.
But…what exactly would you define as a happy ending?”
“In these types of movies, one person dies, whereas the lover continues to live on.
For example…the protagonist loses the girl he loves, but he ends up together with another girl and lives a happy life.
Could you call that a happy ending?”
“That…might be a happy ending for the protagonist, but don’t you feel bad for the girl who died?”
“Then what if that girl who passed away wishes for the protagonist to be happy with someone other than her?”
“Hm…It’s definitely not a bad ending, but I don’t think the audience would enjoy that very much.”
Looking at this from the perspective of a movie, I personally would want the protagonist to stay with the first girl.
To always keep living that girl instead.
“Holding feelings for the girl who died until the end of time definitely has a beautiful ring to it, but it’s quite cruel, don’t you think? Rather than suffer forever by thinking about the person you’ve lost, it would be best to be together with someone else and live the rest of your life happily, no? They may have lost their lover, and feel pain at that fact, but they overcame that and became happy with someone else.
Isn’t that much better than a story ending with nothing but loss?”
“That’s true…But we’re talking about a movie, right? If you’re going with another girl, then it renders the point of the first lover pointless.
It makes her less special.”
I’m not adhering to fate or destiny or any of that.
But becoming lovers means that you’ve become special to each other, so just casting a loved one aside to pick another person…just feels so depressing.
It’s like the bonds between the two of them weren’t all that deep, to begin with.
“But because this first lover existed…Because there was something to be lost, it equally grants something special by having met.”
A summer breeze passed us by, as Kazuhi and Suzuya’s hair shook.
Like a ripple, almost.
However, that quickly subsided, as everything went back to normal.
“…But, that’s enough.
Sorry to bore you with my hypotheticals.
I just remembered a movie I’d watched some time ago, so I wanted to discuss that with you.”
“It wasn’t boring or anything.
I just realized that there are a lot of viewpoints to be had.
And that explains why Kazuhi enjoys these sorts of movies so much.”
When it comes to a sad movie, she likes that it makes you think about life itself.
That each person in the movies has a different way of dealing with or handling the inevitable end of death.
Kazuhi hadn’t participated in this conversation up to this point, and yet when I called out to her, she froze up for a moment.
It’s like her thoughts just stopped.
“What’s that reaction about? You love tearjerkers, right?”
“Huh? Uh…Well, I don’t…really like them so much, no.”
“What? Not too long ago, you said you liked them.”
“A-Ahaha…Well, a maiden’s heart is ever-changing!”
“What the heck does that mean?”
“I mean…well…” She showed a smile devoid of her usual radiance, as she gripped her hands together into fists on her lap, muttering.
“…A sudden death like that is just…unreasonable, right?”
I don’t know why, but I felt like an emotion I’d never seen on Kazuhi was mixed in with her voice.
She’s my childhood friend who’s always been with me, and yet she’s not like herself lately.
Even that dejected profile of hers, it’s like I’m talking to a complete stranger.
I don’t like feeling this distance between us.
And I didn’t know how to respond to those words.
Panicking, I rushed to get the usual Kazuhi back and spoke up.
“…The summer festival.”
“We promised we’d go there together, right?”
“I haven’t forgotten.
So don’t say you’re off to Hawaii or whatever.”
“It’s a promise.
We’ll go together this summer.
I didn’t even understand why I was saying this.
And why I tried to force this point home so badly.
But, I felt restless, like I had to say it now or regret it forever.
“…Don’t go anywhere, Kazuhi.”
Summer is supposed to be the season of life and vigor.
The season of shining light and virtue.
In return, the shadows it creates become stronger.
The contrast between the endless blue sky above us and the shadow of the tower we sat behind was so beautiful…that it honestly gave me the creeps.
And despite what I’ve said, Kazuhi didn’t respond.
She just showed a troubled, somewhat saddened smile.
Without returning anything, she looked toward Suzuya instead.
I think you should come with us to the summer festival!”
“Huh? No, I’m okay.
I wouldn’t want to get in the way…”
“You’re not getting in the way of anything! So…please?” Kazuhi took Suzuya’s hand as she pushed her face closer, sounding like she was pleading.
“I want you to come with us…I really mean it.”
I don’t know why Kazuhi was so desperate for this, and Suzuya shouldn’t know, either.
But, she was probably overwhelmed by Kazuhi’s request that she smiled faintly and nodded.
I’ll think about it.”
That day, once classes had ended, I called out to Suzuya, who was preparing to head home.
She turned around, and her eyes, shaped like black gems, looked at me.
It felt like the atmosphere around us changed simply because of that.
Her presence is no joke, as always.
“There’s something I wanna talk about.
Think we can go home together?”
“Oh my, without Amagase-san?”
I asked her to let me walk home with just Suzuya, and she agreed obediently.
It’s okay if you don’t want it to be just the two of us.”
She might just have a certain level of resistance toward walking home with just a boy.
I regretted asking her this bluntly, but she showed no signs of hating it.
“No, I don’t mind.
Let’s go home together, Haruoka-kun.”
We stood next to each other and started walking down the hallway.
Until a few days ago, I would have never imagined something like this.
But after talking to Suzuya once, I realized that she’s easy to talk to, so I don’t feel nervous anymore…Well, the gazes of jealousy and killing intent coming from our classmates did hurt a bit, but that’s beside the point.
We walked through the school gate, and after confirming that nobody was around us, I cut into the main reason I invited her.
“Suzuya…what do you think of Kazuhi?”
“I think she’s adorable, and I do like her quite a bit.”
“Oh…Maybe I was in the way all this time?”
“That’s not exactly what I meant, but you could take it that way.”
“Which is it…? But, anyway, I’m glad she’s not being a bother, at least.”
“Hee hee, were you worried that I was just thinking of Amagase-san as a weird person?” Suzuya grinned at me, having seen through all of it.
“I mean…Something’s been off about her lately.
I can’t tell what she’s thinking.
I want to help her, but she won’t tell me what’s on her mind.
I was wondering what you thought about all that.”
“Yeah, I realized there’s something going on.
She seems awfully desperate to get us both together.”
“…Guess it was pretty obvious.”
“But in reality, there’s no way she would actually want us to start dating.”
“More importantly, I’m a bit curious, assuming there’s an actual reason.
She doesn’t tell you anything?”
She’s always so…squishy and above the clouds, but she can be a bit stubborn.
And once she’s decided on something, she won’t tell me no matter what.”
“I see…It must be something she desperately doesn’t want to tell anybody.
But in that case, we shouldn’t force it out of her.
But leaving her to deal with it by herself isn’t an option, either…We should carefully watch over her to not pressure her either, as we create an atmosphere that would make it easier for her to bring it up…? Or maybe I should introduce her to a place with delicious food, so that she can forget some of the stress weighing down on her…” Suzuya mumbled to herself with a serious expression.
To my surprise, she took this much more seriously than I thought.
“Ah, well, I was just admiring how serious you were.”
“Why would I not be? She’s my…very first friend.”
As I thought, you’re such a kind—Wait, first?”
“Yes,” she nodded and continued like she was confessing something.
“I…never had any friends up to now.”
“You? For real?”
If it was anybody else, I probably wouldn’t have reacted the same way.
The only real two friends I have are my childhood friend Kazuhi and that weirdo Yousuke, after all.
I don’t think that the more friends the better, either.
But…Suzuya’s, well, Suzuya.
She’s rich, admired by everyone, and like a school idol—That’s who Suzuya Hotaru is.
And hearing that the person at the center of attention has no friends…surprised me.
“Do you think I’m lying? Well, do you know any friends of mine?”
When she says it like that, I really can’t think of anybody.
It’s true that everybody admires her, but at the same time…whenever I see her outside of class, she’s usually reading a book or admiring the scenery outside the window.
I never see her with anybody else.
But since she always looked like a drawn painting, I failed to see that as weird.
“I bet I’m hard to talk to.
Like I build a wall between myself and the people around me.
I can’t get inside the circles of people in the class.
Because they get nervous when I’m there.”
I could sense a feeling of loneliness from her dropped gaze.
Maybe Suzuya…was a lot more lonely than I assumed she was.
“Suzuya…” I didn’t know what I should say, seeing her speak in such a self-deprecating manner.
“Basically, I’m what they would call a loner.”
“I don’t think you need to go that far, really.”
“But I found this word online, so I wanted to use it at least once.”
“Are you some kid in elementary school who heard a cool word online and chooses to use it all day?!”
It felt like all the tension escaped my shoulders.
The serious mood had completely vanished.
“I swear, you’re talking nonsense.
How could anybody feel stiff and nervous with you around.”
“Hee hee, thanks.
But, I’m pretty sure that’s because you’re here with me.”
“Like I said before, that one exchange you had with Kusama-kun I witnessed really stuck with me.”
“Oh yeah, right.”
She mentioned something like that at one point.
Saying I offered to help (?) Yousuke after he was getting scolded by a teacher again.
“Just as I stated earlier, I don’t have any friends.
That’s why I felt a bit jealous watching the two of you banter back and forth.”
The hell is she talking about? What could be so heartwarming about an argument between me and that occult freak?
“You call each other idiots, but actually don’t feel that way in the slightest.
Just spending your days, causing a ruckus and laughing…That kind of distance and relationship is something I never got to experience.
Doing stupid things together, laughing about the smallest things.
I had no friends to do these things with, so watching you like that felt so…dazzling.
“…No, don’t mind me.
Anyway, it’s because of these things that I found myself interested in you.”
“It’s an honor to hear you say that, but I’m not some amazing superhuman, y’know?”
“You don’t have to be so modest about it.
You’re a wonderful person.”
“You’re exaggerating, you loner rich lady.”
“…Hehe, did you say something just now?” She may have smiled while saying that, but she emitted a dense and ominous pressure as she held onto my shirt.
“You just said it yourself, right?!”
“Saying it yourself and being told are two different things.
I’m allowed to call myself a loner, but you are not.
You need a punishment.”
“You’re some sadist, I swear.
You’re probably more of a loner queen, then.”
“And yet you continue to make fun of me like this.
I wonder if you have slight masochistic tendencies?” She kept holding on to my shirt—and then burst out laughing.
“…Haha,” She snickered loudly, as her shoulders quivered.
“I see…This is how those mundane exchanges work.”
See, I knew you could do it.”
“…And again, it’s because you’re here with me.
You don’t hold back around me.
The wall I feel between myself and others…feels a lot thinner with you.”
“But then you should be able to do the same with others.
I’m nobody special.
Isn’t it just a routine and getting used to it? I know I might just be meddling with your business, but if you think people struggle to approach you, then why don’t you take the first step? Anybody would be happy to talk to you, and once you open up a bit, it’ll bring more and more people in because they realize how easy it is to talk to you.”
“…Easy to talk to? Me?” She looked at me in surprise, tilting her head.
Once you break through the initial wall, it’s pretty easy to chat with you.”
Ah, she’s happy about that one.
She’s even grinning a bit, and her face is red.
“…A-Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand.
We were discussing Amagase-san, right?”
“Right…Well, if you didn’t hear anything from her, then I’ll just be on the watch for a while.
If she really doesn’t want to tell us, then I’d feel bad forcing it out of her.”
It’s still a mystery as to why she’s so desperate to get both of us together, and if she’s in pain, then I wouldn’t want to leave her alone…But I have to say, the way she gets flustered all the time is quite adorable.”
“I knew it! You’re so into yuri, and you’d definitely be the dominant queen!”
“She’s got such an abundance of reactions and expressions, which makes her incredibly easy to see through.
And that being the case, she’s quite straightforward, too.”
“She sucks at lying, yeah.
And yet, she keeps on hiding things.
“You really treasure Amagase-san, I see.”
She’s my childhood friend.”
“Hehe…I’m a bit jealous.”
“And that’s how much you’ve come to like Kazuhi?”
“Oh my, you’re not even considering that I might hold affection towards you and feel jealousy toward Amagase-san?”
“No worries, I’m not so much of a narcissist.”
“I think you’re just looking down on yourself a tad bit too much.
A bit of conceit never hurt a soul.”
“Huh? What are you…”
Suzuya suddenly moved closer to me, as her black hair swayed, her sweet scent drifting up to my nose.
She stuffed something she held between her fingers into my mouth, touching my lips to forcefully close them.
Immediately after, the salty taste of a sweet candy filled my mouth.
“It’s a konpeito2 I bought at the sweets store before,” she smiled and gave me an explanation as her index finger still touched my lips.
“Hehe, I tried the fortune-telling Amagase-san mentioned this afternoon.
It might not be lunch, but it should be in the margin of error.
That being said…” She then moved her index finger on her own lips.
“Shhh…Keep this a secret from Amagase-san, okay?” She said and gave me a wink.
Her expression had an emotion mixed with a seductive woman and a little child who just succeeded in pulling off a joke, which made my heart skip a beat.
“I’ve been a loner this whole time, so having a ‘Shared secret’ was something I had always admired.”
Because I was scared of the crazy electricity bill, I layed on my bed in my dark room, with the AC barely running, as I gazed up at the ceiling.
It was currently 8pm, and I wasn’t sleepy in the slightest, but I also had nothing really on my agenda.
Instead, I was thinking stuff such as “Girls are so complicated!”, acting like I was a teenager…Well, I am in high school, so that’s exactly what I was, but still.
A sigh left my lips as I scratched my head when my phone vibrated.
And it wasn’t just a regular message, but an incoming call.
Swiping on the screen, I realized that the person calling me was one of the two individuals I had been thinking about this whole time.
“Kazuhi? What’s up, calling me like this?”
“Can you look outside the window right now?”
I listened to the order given to me, got up from the bed, and opened the window.
It wasn’t completely dark outside, as a bit of heat remained.
On the opposite wall was also a window, opened just as mine, with Kazuhi poking her head outside.
“Hee hee, sorry about this.
I just wanted to ask you something while looking at your face.”
“Ask me something?”
Granted, we weren’t exceptionally far away, but because it was fairly late, we chose to keep talking on the phone.
Can’t bother the neighbors.
“You walked home with Suzuya-san today, right? What happened, what happened?!”
“Now listen here…Nothing much ha…” I spoke that far, only to remember her white finger touching my lip, which had me stuttering.
“Huh?! What was that short break about?! Something must have happened, right?!”
“I’m saying it didn’t! I swear, something’s not right with you lately.
You weren’t like this before.”
“You…think so? I’m just me, really.
I’m not a different person.”
“Then…Ah, I know!”
“My ‘precious self,’ or however you wanna call it…what was I like? What image do you have of me?”
“What were you like…?”
Kazuhi looked at me, desperate for an answer.
Despite our windows open, our home’s so close, we wouldn’t be able to reach each other no matter how far we stretched out our arms…I wonder why.
Maybe it’s because the summer nights always make you feel melancholic, but…I’m feeling so empty right now.
And at the same time, a certain image popped up in my head.
“…A field with sunflowers.”
“Ah, well…I just remembered that field of sunflowers we went to when we were kids.”
Why do I remember that now? It’s a mystery.
However, when she asked me for my image of her, that’s what came to my mind.
That smile she showed me back then, it’s just so…great, really.
“We went to that sunflower field at one point, right? I don’t really remember why we even went there, though…”
Memories sure are weird.
Like the bubbles of ramune.
That’s why I don’t even remember the date or the exact location.
I just remember the clear blue sky, and that smile, like it was burned into my retinas.
“Ah…Back then? When we were in third grade, we came to that field because Yousuke-kun talked about there being a witch in the town next to ours.
That’s why we went there to look for it!”
“Right…he was always completely crazy about occult stuff.”
That sure takes me back.
I remember it now.
Back then, Yousuke came to me and said “Listen to this, Yousuke! There’s a rumor going around about a witch who came here from another world! Don’t you wanna go meet her?! I bet you do! Let’s all go see her together!” He really has not changed since then, I swear…
“But on the day we promised to meet, Yousuke-kun had eaten too much ice and was stuck at home.
That’s why we went there as just the two of us.
We never even went to that town before, so it felt like an adventure! And while we walked around there, a ribbon came drifting down from the sky.
You found it, remember? We ran after it, and then eventually encountered that sunflower field.”
I think I wrapped that ribbon around your wrist…”
It was a single ribbon.
Since the sky was clear and blue, that red ribbon stood out to me, and after picking it up, I gave it to Kazuhi.
“Hee hee, I still have that ribbon even now.”
“Yeah, I think you’re still wearing it as a bracelet from time to time, right? Why are you even keeping this still? You could just throw it away considering how old it is.”
“Whaaat? No way! I can’t just throw away things I got from other people.”
“It’s just some old thing I didn’t even buy, you know.”
I only happened to pick it up and wrapped it around her wrist.
“Honestly, looking for a witch only to end up at a field of sunflowers sure is weird.
And of course, we couldn’t find this witch, instead getting scolded by Mom and Dad when we got home…But, that day was a lot of fun for me.”
That’s what happened.”
The memories of that distant day were hazy, but I remember chasing after that idiotic something, only to come back with empty hands.
But in return, I received a beautiful image of the scenery and that alluring smile.
Then, I happened to remember what Suzuya told me before.
Even if you lose your loved one, assuming you can spend the rest of your life with someone else, it can still be regarded as a happy end.
It’s a bit different from that, but by sacrificing something, we obtained something else.
It’s a substitute or even a high-level exchange.
“…Now I’m feeling nostalgic.
Back then, I actually believed in this witch.”
“But not anymore, huh?”
“Rather than that…I’m sure that magic isn’t anything particularly special.”
“What’s really special is this mundane time we spend with the people we care about.”
“…Hey, what happened? You’re suddenly sounding like a philosopher.”
Summer nights like these are what turns a maiden into a philosopher.”
“That makes no sense.”
“…Don’t worry about it.
Sorry to call you out of the blue like this.
Good night, Sou-chan,” Kazuhi hung up and closed the window, pulling the curtains close.
I gazed at my phone and then mumbled to myself.
“…There’s no way nothing’s going on, you dunce.”
While gazing up at the blue sky, two girls were at the top of my mind.
One of them is the girl I’ve always been together with, and the other is one I recently got acquainted with.
I’m not a hero who goes around saving girls.
I can’t appear in their time of need as a knight in shining armor to save them from their predicament.
So if being cool and calm doesn’t work, then I just have to be an idiot and force those two to smile.
“Sou! I brought what you asked me for! We’re doing that, right?!”
Classes had ended for the day.
And right on cue, Yousuke came to my desk carrying a large sports bag, despite not being part of any sports club.
“Thanks a bunch…But, where did you even keep this? I don’t remember you carrying this around today.”
“I placed it in the occult club’s clubroom when I came to school this morning.
Sure caught me by surprise, asking to bring these babies with me.”
“I remembered you saying that you bought these back in middle school.
I had some at my own place, but nearly not enough.”
“Sooo…I was helpful this time, right? In other words, this would be the perfect time for you to praise me!”
Damn, he’s as noisy as always.
But since he actually did well today.
I don’t mind praising you…”
“Assuming you can win against me, that is,” I said and pulled the trigger of the object in my hand.
Immediately after, a stream came shooting out of the muzzle—consisting of water.
“Mgh?! What was that for, Sou?! Surprise attacks don’t count! You can’t just shoot me with my holy rife!”
“Your smug face was just getting on my nerves.
Also, this isn’t a holy rifle, it’s a water gun!”
That’s right, I asked Yousuke to bring some water guns with him.
“Hah! So you’re declaring war on me?! Fine, I’ll use my protective spirit power to strike you down!” He grinned and fired off his own water gun.
However, it was a bit different from mine.
What he held was something akin to a water machine gun.
It was a lot bigger and could fit a greater volume of water, giving him the advantage:
“Now hold on.
That’s not fair! Also, first, you have the devil’s powers, then you’re shooting holy water, and now you have protective spirit power…What do you even believe in?!”
“It’s totally fair! It’s my power, after all.
Also, I’m friends with both devils and spirits, so…Here I come! Holy water attack!”
He fired off his water machine gun.
And paired with the severe pressure, he could even fire off several shots after another.
I managed to evade one, but my seat ended up completely drenched.
Our classmates were already causing a ruckus, too.
“How’s this?! Want some of my power?!”
“That’s not your power, it’s the water machine gun!”
“Sou-chan, Yousuke-kun, what are you up to?”
Kazuhi had returned after she previously left the room to talk to Suzuya.
“Ah, perfect timing.
You come join us, Kazuhi.”
I turned toward Kazuhi, throwing my water gun at her.
She seemed flustered for a moment, but somehow managed to catch it.
Then I grabbed a new one from the bag Yousuke brought…Holy smokes, he had this many?! And they were already filled with water, too.
That must have been heavy as all hell.
I thanked Yousuke only in my mind, as I grinned confidently.
For the next thirty minutes, we’re gonna shoot at each other, and the one who’s the least wet by the end is the winner.
We’re allowed to move everywhere in this school, but if you get caught by a teacher…then you’re immediately disqualified.
Aaand…go!” I moved my water gun and pointed it at Kazuhi.
However, through spending all this time together, she apparently could read my movement quite too easily, as she evaded the shot with a smirk, saying “I figured you’d do that!”
“That’s a bit sudden, but I’m game! I can tell what you’re thinning, Sou-chan!”
“Hmph, I wonder how long you can be so confident? The game has already started.”
“Understood! All right, time to get fired up and win this thing, indeed!”
“What roleplay is this now? You talk like a weirdo.”
Look at her being this excited.
Well, she easily gets fired up for these things, always participating in nonsense like this.
“I’m joining in, you two! Eat this!”
Following that was merciless water machine gun fire.
Watching our battle begin, our classmates now cheered like they were watching a sports event.
That being said, Yousuke’s water machine gun is way too strong.
I figured it’d be better to wait for an attack when he’s out of water, so I escaped from the classroom.
I looked for a place to hide, when I ran down the stairs, looking for another possible participant.
Luckily, I found just the perfect individual.
“Suzuya! Great timing!”
The girl’s beautiful blonde hair swayed as she turned around.
I ran down the stairs to where she had just passed.
“Oh my, Haruoka-kun.
Were you looking for me?”
Let’s have some time together,” I said and threw the water gun at her.
She panicked a moment but somehow managed to catch it.
At the same time, Yousuke appeared from the top of the stairs.
“Found you, Sou…You better be rea—Wait, you’re inviting Suzuya-san?! No way! I can’t shoot her! I don’t have the courage to do that!”
“Like hell I care about that.
If you’re not gonna shoot, you’ll get shot.
This whole school is a battlefield.”
“Dawww, that sounded so cool! I wanted to say that! But then again, I kinda wanna see Suzuya-san get all drenched!”
“I’m impressed you have the guts to say that in front of her…”
Pretty sure that requires greater courage than shooting her with a water gun.
Being subconsciously evil like that just sounds even nastier.
“…Hm, I see.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here, but I’m down.” Suzuya had finished listening to our conversation, as she ran her hand through her hair, smiling.
“Basically, I just have to beat you up completely?”
Not expecting Suzuya to approach him, Yousuke got splashed right in the face by a large shot, as he groaned.
“Hmph! I can’t sit still when there’s a devil user this close by! Eat this! Holy water!”
Seriously, spirit power or devil user, can you pick one? I mean, he’s using holy water against the devil, so he’s…not technically…wrong…? Anyway, he fired off his water machine gun.
However, Suzuya faintly moved her body, like she was dancing almost, to evade the incoming attack.
And while doing so, she fired off her own water gun twice.
Both of those beautifully hit Yousuke.
“Holy smokes! How are you so good?!”
Then again, dealing with such a perfect beauty like her, I should have expected this outcome.
And as our battle continued to escalate, we got more and more attention from the other students.
“What’s going on? What are they doing?”
“It’s Kusama from class 4.
The famous weirdo, he’s up to something.”
Funnily enough, Yousuke was being treated as a weirdo even by people from other classes.
However, he didn’t bother much with their bothered expressions, as he used the water guns inside the sports bag hanging from his shoulder to fire off endless amounts of water mercilessly.
“Hehehe! If you wanna join in, then be my guest! I’ve got all these weapons here! And right now, I’m the history’s strongest devil user and dealer of forbidden arms!”
He kept blabbering about confusing stuff while striking a cringe pose, which led the people around us to mutter among themselves even further.
However, when I paid attention to it, I realized that more people were being interested in it rather than simply shunning Yousuke.
“I don’t really get what’s going on, but this looks fun.”
“That weirdo Kusama’s involved, right? You should stay away from that.”
“I mean…it doesn’t seem too bad.
And it feels like…it’s youth.”
“What are you on about?”
“I don’t like Kusama being involved, but…Suzuya-san’s participating, so…”
“I wanna try it, too! Especially since it’s so hot today!”
Thus, all the people wishing to participate grabbed water guns from Yousuke’s repertoire.
“Sou, we’re running low!”
Since more people than expected wanted to participate, we quickly ran out of water guns.
That’s why I breathed in and then declared in a loud voice.
“Everyone’s free to participate in this battle! You come at us as you like! Since we’re out of water guns, you can grab water bottles or buckets! However, no violence! And now throwing things at other people!”
I’m not a weirdo like Yousuke, so standing out like this is honestly more embarrassing than anything.
However, I have to do it.
Better this way than doing something half-baked and regretting it later.
In these cases, it’s much more convenient to just be another idiot in the system.
The students all around me seemed to agree, as they raised their fists into the air, reading their water guns.
Others grabbed water bottles with water.
Since this school is fairly communal, they’re all up for fooling around like this.
Then again, Suzuya the school idol participating must be a huge part, too.
If it was just Yousuke and me, we probably would have gotten ignored.
“Hahaha! You normal folks can group up as much as you want, you can’t beat me!” Yousuke still had water left in his gun and fired it at his surroundings.
I could hear screams, colored in laughter and joy.
“That’s no fair!”
“Everyone! Let’s gang up on him!”
“Haha! You won’t defeat me this easily! I will show you how the occult club handles things, and create a legend for myself!”
Everyone began targeting Yousuke simultaneously, as Suzuya turned around and ran away.
“Suzuya? You not gonna join in?”
However, I need to replenish my ammunition.”
“Ah, you need water.”
But once I’m recharged, we can continue our battle…”
“You’re brimming with excitement, eh? Sounds good, I’ll face you head-on!”
“Hehe…When we next meet, we’ll be enemies.
And I will be the one to pierce your heart.”
“You’re getting a bit too excited, no?!” I screamed in terror as I watched her run off.
“Hey now, I won’t make it that easy for you.”
We both replenished our water and stood face-to-face in the hallway.
We’re heavily limited on ammunition here.
Once one person is out, they’ll be done for.
So, while facing each other, we carefully shot at each other and evaded the incoming water.
Right now, only our shoulders and legs were wet, but we didn’t suffer any severe injuries.
Suzuya pulled the trigger, but she was out of water.
Probably used up too much.
“Outta ammunition, eh? Wanna surrender?”
“Oh, please…You’re so naive, Haruoka-kun.”
Suzuya showed a confident smirk, as she moved her hand to faintly lift up her skirt.
Through this, she revealed her thighs, but what was further above thankfully stayed hidden.
And on her white thigh, I could see a water bottle tied to through the usage of a thread.
Normally, that would stick out quite a bit, but because she kept it on the back of her thigh, I couldn’t see it until now.
“…I mean, I understand the need for more ammunition during battle, but did you really have to place it there?”
Her waist or inside her bag would have been more than enough.
“But keeping ammunition on your garter belt is perfectly normal, right? At least that’s how they do in the movies, so I wanted to replicate that.”
“It’s always the same.
Watching an action movie? You get weapons stuck to a garter belt.
A deadly disease? Someone’s writing a will.
Isekai reincarnation? Cheats.
It is the way things work.”
“I get the action and disease thing…but you’re even knowledgeable when it comes to isekai reincarnation?! You’re a bigger nerd than I thought!”
“I am a specialist when it comes to isekai reincarnation,” Suzuya showed a confident smirk as she filled up her water gun.
In the meantime, I stood still and let her do exactly that.
After all, the hero is currently undergoing his transformation scene, so it’d be against the law for me to attack her.
I’d just be a party pooper if I used this opening, and it’s also a way for me to repay her for the delicious sight of her thighs.
“Now, Haruoka-kun…I guess this would be the time for the shocking turnaround?” Suzuya finished refilling her water gun as she showed a devilish grin and pointed the muzzle at me.
And right at that moment, I spotted Kazuhi creeping up to Suzuya behind her back.
She was probably either fighting Yousuke up to this point, or maybe even another student, as she didn’t catch on to us yet, holding the water gun while looking around.
However, she eventually saw us and attempted to run away.
It’s almost like she was saying that she wanted to give us some alone time together.
However, I wouldn’t let her, calling her name.
“You help me! We’ll fight Suzuya together.”
“No, no, no.
You’re going to fight with me, right? We’ll get you all drenched, Haruoka-kun.”
“No, no, no.
She’ll side with me.
And then you’ll be crying for more ammunition for my water gun!”
Kazuhi narrowed her eyes with a worried gaze, looking between the two of us.
What’s that face about? Hey, this isn’t like you.
You should have more fun.
Go wild and crazy, as you laugh to your heart’s content.
That’s what we’re all about, right?
Suzuya and I spoke up at the same time and smiled.
“Let’s play together!”
We stopped in our tracks, turning towards Kazuhi, who wanted to run away.
And then, we offered our hands to her.
For a split second, she looked like she was on the verge of breaking out in tears.
But she then formed a fist in front of her chest, and looked down once.
When she looked up again—she smiled.
“I…I won’t side with either of you! After all, I am…” She struck a cool pose to the point I could see a sound effect popping up behind her like in a manga.
“I am equality! I am an advocate of peace! The super hero of justice!”
“Ah, Croquette Man’s back.”
“It definitely is Croquette Man.”
“How many more times do we have to repeat this same joke?!”
“It’s because you called yourself a superhero.”
“Th-That’s true, but I don’t have croquettes with me right now! I have a water gun, so I’m Water Gun Man!”
“That’s so hard to say.
I’ll just stick with Croquette Man.”
“I was denied right away?! A-Anyway, a hero of justice will take even fooling around like this seriously! I’ll go all out! That’s why, no holding back, Sou-chan, Suzuya-san!” She instantly ran toward us, as Suzuya readied herself.
“Hee hee, it won’t be that easy for you…”
Seeing Kazuhi scream that with a serious face, Suzuya burst out laughing.
Unable to bear with it, she held her stomach as she continued to writhe in laughter and agony, as Kazuhi’s shot of water hit her right in the face.
“I did it! I defeated Suziya!”
“W-Wait…That was…against the rules!” Her face was beet red as she continued to laugh endlessly.
“Now it’s your turn, Sou-chan!”
Come at me, Kazuhi.”
I dodged the Croquette Beam, firing a stream of water at her.
Unable to evade that, the collar of her uniform ended up drenched as she shrieked.
You’re ten years too early to think you can beat me.”
“Y-You only grazed my upper uniform! This is where the real battle starts!”
We pointed our water guns at each other, taking positions.
Right after, we heard footsteps approaching us.
They must have been running from another fight because they were girls completely wet.
“Dawww, my uniform is drenched!”
“But that was pretty fun, right?”
“Wait…that’s Suzuya-san! Isn’t she laughing like crazy?”
“For real?! I thought she was immune to all jokes…”
“But this is nice.
I think she looks cute…and a lot easier to approach like this.”
The person in question finally got control of her laughter, as she fixed her hair.
But she ignored the girls and spoke to Kazuhi.
“…Hehe, Amagase-san, you’re struggling against Haruoka-san, I see.
How about we team up and show him who’s the real boss here?”
Why’s she sounding like a comic villain now? Well, she probably just said that because she thought it sounded cool.
“What’s this? You teaming up now? I thought Croquette Man was supposed to not pick sides?”
However, she’s not teaming up with me…I’m teaming up with her!”
“H-Hold on! That makes it sound like I’m the evil one!”
I’ll beat you both at the same time.”
We’re both this drenched already…so we’ll have you take responsibility.”
“Hold on, could you not phrase your words that badly?! Was that accidental?!”
That…is a bit too stimulating if you ask me.
In fact, their uniforms were wet to the point they started turning transparent.
“Phew…A-Anyway!” I sighed once to calm down my racing heart and declared.
I raised my eyebrows, looking straight ahead.
Even if we’re just fooling around…I’m gonna take this seriously.
“Let’s finish this.”
As more onlookers gathered around us, we all had our fingers on the triggers, when—My sight was filled with smoke.
“Bugh?! Wh-What the hell is this?!”
The smoke emitted from an oddball that landed between us.
Our surroundings quickly turned white, like this was some sort of poisonous gas…Wait, this feels familiar.
It’s the same thing that got Yousuke scolded by our teacher.
According to him, it’s the greatest possible exorcism tool.
But in the eyes of any normal person, it was just a smoke bomb.
And after the smoke cleared, the evil mind appeared.
“Yoho, Sou! When the protagonist’s in a pinch, it’s time for the friend character to play his part! I came to help you, so praise me! Praise me, please!”
“You’re so god damn annoying! You just got in my way!”
“Whaaat?! How would I be getting in the way?!”
“Your entire existence is a bother! Shut up! Also, how are you this drenched?! You got completely messed up in the few minutes I didn’t watch you!”
“Awww! I’m not wet! In fact, I messed them all up! Because I am the overpowered black magic genius who can control water and droplets!”
“Just shut up! Also, your settings are completely messed up! You called yourself a devil user! Whatever, I’m just gonna beat you up, too!”
Sparks flew between all of us, but then—
“You guuuys agaaain?!”
…However, our homeroom teacher’s roars of anger completely halted our battle.
“I’ve got a mountain load to tell you, but for starters…Change into your jerseys! Can’t have you all catch a cold! It might be damn hot outside, but with how drenched you are…Just to make sure, okay?! The lecture comes after.
I’m gonna wring you guys out, so better be ready!”
Yet again, it was evident he had kind intentions deep down, but our homeroom teacher was tasked to clean up after Yousuke’s mess (yet again).
I don’t blame him for blowing a fuse each and every single time.
We listened to his orders, returned to the classroom, and changed into our P.E.
Luckily, our homeroom teacher said “I bet Kusama and Haruoka are the main perpetrators again, and you other guys got wrapped in this mess, so I’ll be mainly lecturing those two! You other guys, go home! And straight, so you won’t catch a cold!” Great judgment, teach!
Thus, Kazuhi, Suzuya, Yousuke, and I headed back to our classroom.
Then again, Suzuya’s class was different, so she only walked halfway down the hallway.
And even though we were absolutely drenched, we couldn’t stop laughing.
“Hahaha! That was so much fun, Sou-chan!”
“We haven’t played with water guns for years.
But you really surprised me.
Why today of all days?”
Despite being scolded by our teacher not even a few moments ago, Kazuhi was still above the clouds, acting like a cat on catnip.
“No particular reason.
“You like this sort of stuff, right?”
Doing random stuff like this, creating noise and chaos.
It’s what both Kazuhi and I are used to.
I love it,” she said, half in a daze.
She’s finally showing me her usual, drowsy smile.
That’s what I’ve been waiting for.
That’s the kind of smile you’re supposed to have.
“This sure takes me back.
We’d always do idiotic stuff like this!”
“H-Hey now, Kazuhi-chan! Calling us idiots might be taking a bit too far, don’t you think? I’m not an idiot, I’m a genius black magic user!”
“Huh? Ah, wait, no! I wasn’t making fun of you…I was saying it in a good way! A good meaning!”
“Ah, a good way? That’s whatevs, then!”
“You’re really satisfied with that explanation?!”
“B-But Sou-chan, you said it before, too! ‘Humans are all idiots, so might as well be a straightforward idiot.
Makes life easier,’ is what you told me!”
“Never have I ever uttered that in my life! You’re just making nonsense up as you go!”
Hearing our banter, Suzuya let out a snicker.
And then, the other people around us called out to her.
“Ah, Suzuya-san! That water battle just now was fun! Let’s play again!”
Seeing the girls smile at her, Suzuya was bewildered for a moment.
“…Y-Yes,” she answered awkwardly, bewildered, but most importantly—Happily.
“That’s a promise! Make sure to invite me next time!” She waved her hands at the girls and said her goodbyes, as I could see her grinning.
She’s on cloud seven, just like Kazuhi.
As Kazuhi and Yousuke were busy talking, Suzuya pulled on the sleeve of my shirt, calling out to me.
“Hey now, I’m being thanked after getting you absolutely drenched? Where’d the queen I thought I knew gone off to?”
“Don’t poke fun at me now.” She pulled on my ear with a pout, whispering.
“You wanted me to indulge in this…’Stupid fun,’ right?”
“What does that even mean? I didn’t do a damn thing.
It’s because you ran around like a sniper with that water gun that everybody else said ‘Holy smokes, Suzuya’s not some cool beauty at all.
She’s really funny,’ and that’s about it.”
“I don’t quite like how you had to phrase that, but leaving that aside…” She snickered and looked at me with a gentle smile.
“You really…are a pleasant person.”
“I just wanted to cause a fun ruckus.
Just going all out right before summer break…With my important new friend.”
Honestly, that line sounded so cheesy, I had to look away if I wanted to keep a straight face while delivering it.
“W-Well, and also…Kazuhi’s smiling, too.”
And I truly love her smile.”
Kazuhi and Yousuke were walking a bit ahead of us, discussing what ‘idiotic’ even means.
Watching them, I muttered, almost like I wasn’t myself.
“…This only lasts for a moment, and I might just be getting on too high of a horse, but…”
It’s embarrassing to say.
And to ensure that the person in question didn’t hear it, I whispered to Suzuya.
“Even so…Even if it’s just one moment…one second…I want her to smile as much as possible.”
I don’t need to fake nonsense.
I don’t care if I’m looking lame.
I can’t be a hero who cheers up people wherever I go, so the best I can do is cause a ruckus to allow everyone to be themselves, and let them burst out laughing.
It might not be much, but I want to ease the pain she seems to be feeling right now.
If it’s a problem that’ll be resolved in time, then I’ll give her that.
And make her feel at peace while she goes through it.
And while telling Suzuya about this, we already reached our classroom, which meant that we’d had to split off from Suzuya.
But right before that, I could hear a faint mumble coming from her.
“…You really are kind.”
“Hee hee…It’s nothing.
Her hair was still wet, the drops of water looking like small pearls, as she entered the classroom, whispering quietly.
“I have to say…I’m a bit jealous of the person who gets to be next to you.”
1 Dried bonito flakes
2 Small coloured sugar candy covered with tiny bulges
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