The end of the first three days of January also meant the end of the New Year holiday craze.
My parents who were lounging around immediately returned to their busy schedule when work resumed and Komachi finally shifted into serious mode for her exams.
As such, with nothing to do at home, Kamakura and I spent our days in comfortable lethargy.
But the peaceful passage of time doesn’t mean your mind is at peace. A person becomes more anxious the longer they spend time doing nothing. To be busy is to devote your full attention to something while everything else stays outside the span of your attention. It’s when you have free time that you find yourself thinking about the aimless future. You then fall into depression. Ahhh, I really don’t want to go to school or work…
Especially during this limited winter break, you were easily susceptible to these kinds of thoughts.
You’re reminded that this time of emptiness and permissible idleness will eventually come to an end. To us, we know by heart that this amiable period of time won’t continue on forever.
Time will mindlessly go on, placing a strong, mental burden on an individual in order to make apparent that there is a definite end. I wonder if this is how NEETs feel when they realize their parents they were so dependent on have gotten old… I thought at the kotatsu, patting the belly of my cat.
But it was by surpassing that burden that made you a true warrior. A true, unemployed warrior. The people who say “it’s time to get serious” for the first time after being cornered were unemployed people and light novel authors. It came to reason that being unemployed equated to being a light novel author. Q.E.D.1 Or Spirals: The Bonds of Reasoning2 instead.
I was stuck with those thoughts and once I realized it, it had already become the END OF VACATION3.
School would be starting today henceforth.
But due to the messy rhythm of my life, I was met with a hectic morning.
As I washed my face, I roughly combed my unkempt hair and looked into the mirror. My sleepiness was blown away by the chilly morning and the freezing water.
Alright… Let’s do my best today, too.4
× × ×
The classes following the end of winter break were enveloped in an unruly atmosphere.
My classmates who exchanged greetings like “Long time no see” and “Happy New Year!” somehow looked restless. It’s likely because they had plenty to talk about from over winter break. Everyone was clamorous and imbued with energy far different from the usual. It might’ve been because it’s been a long time since they had spoken, the New Year, and the exciting air that was especially unique at the beginning of a new semester.
However, those reasons were likely not the only ones.
The scrap of paper that was passed out to us during the morning short home room (SHR) was one of the causes.
My eyes were fixated on that paper as the words of the homeroom teacher went in one ear and out the other. Written on the paper was “Prospective Career Path Questionnaire”. This had been given out several times before, but this was apparently the last one of our second year. Our third year electives for humanities and sciences would be officialized according to this sheet.
Whether we liked it or not, it made us aware that our time as second year high school students would end.
The year had changed and what remained of the time we could spend in this class was little. The year gradually marched on and we could feel the passage of time becoming faster. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
We were a week into January and there was only a little left of this school year. The time we could spend in class was just short of three months.
The main school events were done and anything after January somehow felt like a throwaway period. No goal to head to meant having no events to hold. But going away along with that was the awareness towards friendly people in the surroundings, leading to the current commotion.
Moreover, once we were third years, we wouldn’t attend school starting from January and on to prepare for exams. So in reality, this winter was the last winter of our high school life.
You’re reminded that this time of emptiness and permissible idleness will eventually come to an end. To us, we know by heart that this amiable period of time won’t continue on forever.
× × ×
The noisy atmosphere saw no change even after school.
There were still an abundance of students left in the classroom seemingly because they weren’t satisfied with their talking yet. Conspicuous amongst them was the group that revolved around Hayama Hayato and Miura Yumiko.
Tobe, Oooka, and Yamato were engaged in their typical idiotic conversation while Hayama was looking out the window with his chins in his hand. Occasionally, he would respond as needed to the three of them in light of something with a smile.
Their immediate neighbors, Miura and the others, were apparently engaged in another discussion.
Miura was sluggishly twirling her blonde hair with her fingertips like always and was slumped against the back of her chair. She was glaring at the Prospective Career Path Questionnaire in one hand.
“Yui, what are you gonna go with?” Miura asked Yuigahama, who was diagonally opposite of her, while flapping the sheet of paper.
“I’m… probably gonna go with humanities, maybe.”
“Ohh. Ebina, you?”
“I’m doing the same thing. What about you, Yumiko?”
“I’m… still thinking.”
Ebina-san, sitting in front of Miura, answered as she was adjusting her glasses. Miura replied back and glanced to her side.
In that direction was Hayama’s group.
Miura paused to think as she was watching them and called out. “…Tobe, what are you gonna do?”
Tobe turned around after he was suddenly brought up and he tilted his head, not knowing what she was talking about. But it looked like he perceived the situation after seeing the paper in Miura’s hand.
“Ahh, my career path, ehh? Nah, I’m still figurin’ out what to do, but I do suck at memorizin’ stuff. I might go with the sciences.”
Miura cocked her head in a degenerate way, ridiculing him and Yuigahama was surprised. Well, it certainly was unexpected. For the most part, Tobe didn’t look like the type of person who could sit through a science curriculum. I wasn’t the only one who thought that as Oooka and Yamato nearby checked with his sanity.
“Sciences? You serious?”
It looked like even Tobe didn’t take their remarks too kindly. His mouth distorted and he argued back.
“Whaddya want me to do? Rememberin’ English vocab is like playin’ a game on steroids.”
No, no, English is necessary for both the humanities and the sciences, you know…
Oooka and Yamato looked relieved that Tobe didn’t put into any thought on deciding, joined their shoulders together, and spoke close to his ears.
“Let’s go with the humanities together, eh? Yeah?”
“Getting credits in the sciences at college is pretty hard, dude.”
“Yeah, yeah, listen to Yamato. College humanities are easy peasy, so we can hang out all the time, you know? We can only really hang out while we’re still students, so we gotta think about the future!”
It looked like Oooka and Yamato chose their career paths, thinking about how to postpone working full-time instead of continuing their education. Still, was this guy really saying to think about the future in that sense?
People who typically say those things tend to lecture kids with a self-satisfied look only after they started working later on. They’d default to “You’ll end up regretting not studying more as a student, you know?”
Fuhaha! Those people should just agonize over their job hunting days! They should just stick to climbing Mt. Fuji as fast as possible just so they could have a story to tell at a job interview. On the other hand, I had no desire to work, so it’s possible the quality of my soul might be lower than theirs.
But to Tobe, that persuasion was super effective5!
“Ohh, that works too. That’d save me some trouble, for real.” Tobe was ensnared instantly. Tobe’s future blacked out6!
But it looked like even Tobe had concerns about his career path, so he asked the others. “What’s everyone else doin’?”
“Hina and I are probably doing humanities. And Yumiko’s still thinking,” said Yuigahama.
Tobe flicked up his nape hair and glanced at Ebina-san to see what she was doing.
“Ohh, serious. Maybe I’ll hit up the humanities, too.”
“But they do say the sciences have better job prospects. So I think the sciences are good. You can multiply the chemical elements of the Periodic Table7, too.”
Ebina-san was speaking seriously at first, but towards the end, she was making her rotten “gufufu” laugh.
“…Ah, ahh, that makes sense. Th-That works, too. Yeah, yeah, totally.”
No. No, it doesn’t. Tobe, however, was nodding his while recoiling back. As usual, Ebina-san’s protective barrier was standing strong as ever.
What made things different from than normal was how everyone else reacted. The person that would typically keep Ebina-san from going out of control by knocking her on the head wasn’t doing anything today. Finding that odd, Ebina-san turned her gaze to Miura.
Miura was absentmindedly looking in Hayama’s direction, not paying any attention to what Tobe and the others were discussing.
“…How about you, Hayato?” Miura asked Hayama who had been watching over them the entire time without participating.
He lightly shrugged his shoulders and made a wry smile. “I… do have something in mind for now.”
Miura responded listlessly and averted her eyes from Hayama. Unlike her attitude, her face indicated she still wanted to ask more. However, Hayama ended the conversation on that note with just a smile. With a smile like that, it looked like Miura couldn’t ask any further and lost her words. When the conversation halted between the two, Tobe barged in.
“Ya know, Hayato-kun, couldn’t ya tell us which one? I dunno which to pick.”
“What’re you going to do after hearing mine? You’ll regret it if you don’t think about it seriously.”
Hayama’s words were sound.
I don’t have any intention of saying something aggrandizing as “decide your things by yourself“. When you come up with an answer that conforms to someone else’s answer and it doesn’t go well, you’ll always end up blaming that person. You’ll become desperate to look for the criminal of your life. Even though you’re the one with the conformist answer, you’ll hold a grudge towards that person. An attitude of compromise and deception is undoubtedly dishonesty.
Tobe went “ehh”, “ughh”, and “weeey” from Hayama’s lecture, but was somehow convinced.
“Well shucks, guess I’ll think about it harder.” Tobe mumbled. The others nodded and that was the end of that conversation.
Running out of common things to discuss, a brief moment of silence fell over them
Oooka spoke up out of tact as if remembering something and spoke to Hayama. “Speaking of which, Hayato-kun, are you seriously dating Yukinoshita-san?”
Everyone including Miura had their mouths opened in dumbfounded amazement. My mouth might’ve been open, too. What are you blabbering about all of a sudden, Oooka? There’s no way that’s true, I think… It… shouldn’t be, right? Yeah… it shouldn’t be…
When Oooka threw the unexpected curve ball at them, time was stopped for everyone. But the time still continued on.
“Huuuuuuuh!?” Miura noisily stood up from her seat.
My classmates who were chatting noisily directed their gazes towards them in curiosity. The classroom was suddenly enveloped in silence.
With everyone’s attention concentrated on them, Hayama glared at Oooka. “Who’s saying something irresponsible like that?”
The voice he wrung out was sharp.
Hayama emitted an aura that was separate from his typical one and Oooka lost his words in astonishment. Hayama’s gaze, however, wouldn’t allow for even silence.
Hayama’s expression was something I had seen before. It was back during late autumn when we were with Orimoto and her friend.
Pressured by the glint in Hayama’s eyes that didn’t waver, Oooka answered his question in a fluster.
“Nah, it’s more like a rumor… Something about you two being seen together over winter break or something…” said Oooka, barely managing to answer.
Hayama let out a short sigh, lowered the corner of his eyes, and curved his mouth upwards. “Oh, is that it? Sorry, but it’s not that fun of a story. We only met because of family business. Besides, there’s no way that’s true. Right, Tobe?”
With his typical smile, Hayama patted Oooka’s shoulders and asked Tobe with a bright voice.
“Ah…. Ahh, totally! Yeah, totally!”
When a self-deprecating smile was directed to them, Oooka and Yamato agreed.
“Y-Yeah, that’s true! Nahh, I totally thought it was baloney!”
“Then just say so.” Hayama jokingly poked Oooka in the head.
No matter how you looked at it, it was a conversation between boys. After getting poked, Oooka played it off and the classroom gradually grew lax.
Hayama picked up his bag and stood up.
“We should get going to club. I’ll head over once I turn in my questionnaire to the faculty’s office.”
“Okay, we should get going too.”
Unanimously cheering, Tobe followed by Oooka and Yamato stood up, lightly waved to Miura and the others with a “see ya”, and walked off.
Miura watched them leave from behind quietly. She slightly bit her lips and continued twirling her long hair with her fingertips without moving.
Yuigahama gently placed her hands on her shoulders. “It’s okay, don’t worry. Um, I was there, too.”
“You’re kidding?” Miura asked anxiously.
Yuigahama smiled. “Nope. I was shopping on that day and then I met with Yukinon’s onee-chan, and so like, Yukinon’s family and Hayato-kun’s family are acquaintances, so it was like a New Year greeting kind of thing. So, Yukinon was called to that too.”
That’s a terrible explanation… It’s like listening to a child speaking…
Ebina-san nodded her head to the crude explanation and summed it up. “I see. So they met up because of family business and then someone happened to see them and that turned into a rumor.”
“Uh huh, probably.”
“It’s because Hayato-kun and Yukinoshita-san stand out a lot, so it’s easy for them to leave an impression on people.”
After eavesdropping on their conversation up to that point, I stood up from my seat and left the classroom.
× × ×
The commotion after school propagated to the hallways as well.
The school had just resumed from winter break and the premises were still somewhat restless. The usually empty hallway that led to the special building saw some student traffic.
“Did you hear? The thing about Hayama-kun.”
“Ahh, that. Sounds totally real, doesn’t it?”
The girls that passed by me gossiped about the things they had apparently just learned moments ago.
Just like Ebina-san had said in the classroom, it’s likely pieces of information were strung together, turned into a story with some guesswork, evolved into a trend of fun, and dispersed.
It wasn’t even a story that involved me at all, but a discomfort crawled up my neck that made me want to duck my head in as I was listening to the gossip.
That discomfort was likely due to the revolting nature of the people whose names I didn’t even know were gossiping things as they pleased.
The problematic point with gossip like this has to do with the fact they aren’t necessarily speckled with bad will from one person to another.
It’s because it’s funny, it’s because everyone’s interested, and it’s because it’s about the two that stood out. That’s why it’s okay to say anything about them. No one questions that explanation and it becomes the topic of the day. They irresponsibly propagate mistaken information without authenticating it. Regardless of how much trouble it causes for someone, they can pardon themselves of responsibility with “it’s just a rumor”. They’re the ones that stay out of the spotlight, yet when the situation doesn’t go in their favor, they don’t hesitate to blurt out that they’re just an average citizen of the masses.
Just the thought of that was completely sickening. If that’s how things were going to be, it’s a lot better to just overhear people insult you from behind your back.
While I indulged myself in those thoughts, I could hear the sounds of patting footsteps coming after me. The only one who walked this lively was Yuigahama. I relaxed my pace and Yuigahama quickly caught up.
Yuigahama lined up next to me and hit my waist with her bag. “Why are you going on ahead without me?”
“Well, it looked like you were still talking…”
First of all, I don’t recall promising to go to club together with you… Well, there was that promise in December to go to club together. This must’ve been a continuation of that for Yuigahama.
“Hey, did you hear the talk earlier? You know, the thing about Yukinon and Hayato-kun.”
“Well, you guys were pretty loud…”
Not only was her group noticeable as it is, Miura even yelled out… Wasn’t everyone that was still left in class watching at the time?
“Well, a rumor’s a rumor. There’s just no way.”
“I think so too, but…” Yuigahama stopped her words for a moment and quickly lifted her face. “But I was just wondering that maybe that might be true for Yukinon someday. Hayato-kun, too.”
I tried imagining it, but a proper image just didn’t come to mind. Yukinoshita was obvious, but I couldn’t imagine Hayama holding a romantic relationship with a specific individual.
I spilled out my impressions. “Honestly, it’s hard to imagine… seeing Yukinoshita date anyone.”
“What do you mean ‘why’…?”
Even if she looked at me so curiously, I was at a loss. The reason should’ve been completely clear to me, too.
“In her case, just going out with people is, you know…” I said.
Yuigahama made a grimace and groaned. “Ahh, right. Well, um. That’s, er, yeah.”
“Mmmm… Ah! No, no, no, that’s not what I wanted to ask! But I can’t disagree either…” Yuigahama continued groaning while tilting her head.
By then, we had already reached the end of the hallway. And then we were at the front of the club room. Before placing my hand on the door, I coughed once and suppressed my voice.
“Anyway, don’t bring this up in the club.”
“…Because she’s definitely going to get mad.”
It’s already been about close to a year since we’ve known each other. So if I thought about what would happen, then I could imagine Yukinoshita getting angry. If she knew that she was being used as material for the thoughtless gossip, there’s no doubt she’d blow a fuse.
Before entering the room, Yuigahama and I exchanged looks and nodded. I then opened the door to the room that we hadn’t been in for a long time.
× × ×
The club interior was already warm. I let out a breath of relief and sat at my usual seat.
There was a whole cake on the top of the table in front of me that was excitedly prepared by Yuigahama and split into four portions.
We all congratulated her and Yukinoshita fidgeted from embarrassment.
“Th-Thank you… Um, I-I suppose it’d be better to have tea here,” said Yukinoshita. She stood up from her seat and elatedly began preparing black tea. Along with the sound of clanking tableware, I could hear a surprised “ohhh” to my rear.
“Yukinoshita-senpai, so your birthday was on January 3rd, huh? By the way, my birthday is on April 16th, senpai.”
“I didn’t ask…”
Why are you even here in the first place, hmmm…?
She tilted her head in doubt and her flaxen hair shook. She greedily tapped her lips with the fork in her small hand, covered with the baggy sleeve of her cardigan worn under her sloppy uniform.
Isshiki Iroha was here at the Service Club as though it’s the most natural thing in the world.
She took one portion of the four, also took a paper cup, and drank the tea. Wasn’t her adaptability a bit too high? Was she a member of TOKIO8 or something? She looked like she could survive on a deserted island…
Isshiki sipped her black tea and caressed the paper cup with the baggy sleeves of her cardigan.
“Speaking of which, please call me to the shrine visit, too!”
“And why do I need to do that?”
Speaking of which, I have no way of contacting you, though? Or are you saying to do it telepathically? Is there some kind of no service charge benefit? Or is it that? Are you using this as a chance to enact your strategy of standing over me mentally by getting my contact info? Too bad for you! I won’t fall for something like that! I’ll have you know Hachiman knows all about how thinking about things too deeply meant digging your own grave!
I thought arbitrarily, but Isshiki was distracted, not thinking too deeply about it and sighed.
“I mean, everyone went to the shrine visit, right? Then, that obviously means Hayama-senpai will be there.”
“No, he wasn’t there with us…”
“Of course. In that case, never mind then,” said Isshiki. She turned her face away and killed the conversation. Iroha ga Kill!9 Killing things in a single stroke… The only things that felt similar to that were the anime audience and Battousai the Manslayer10.
Well, Isshiki’s feelings were understandable. I could get why she’d think Hayama would be present if Miura and the others were. What I didn’t get was why Isshiki was at our club.
“So, why are you here?”
“Ehhh, I mean, right now, there’s nothing to do at the student council.”
“There’s plenty of stuff, not that I’d know. Go to club then. You’re still the manager, aren’t you?” I said.
Isshiki lightly tapped my shoulders. “Now, now, what’s the big problem? Ah, I know. I’m actually here to pick up the luggage we left here during Christmas.”
“You totally made that up just now.”
The reason sounded so out of place that it could be portable.
Yukinoshita sighed and next to her, Yuigahama had a wry smile. Good grief, Irohasu… Everyone was astonished and astonished that we were going to become Aguirre’s JAPAN11, but Isshiki looked unperturbed. She was so unperturbed that I wanted to turn her into a Keroyon12-like doll and place her in front of a pharmacy.
Finding it awkward that everyone was focused on her, Isshiki blew at her tea that wasn’t even hot and tried to play it off.
“Ah, speaking of which.” Isshiki suddenly spoke up and looked at Yukinoshita. Yukinoshita tilted her head in response and Isshiki smiled. She then blurted something outrageous. “Yukinoshita-senpai, are you dating Hayama-senpai?”
“Come again?” Yukinoshita tilted her head even further making it almost at a ninety degree angle.
Behh, how is this girl able to step on land mines so nonchalantly…? What’s with this Hurt Locker13…? She went and asked her directly without leading up to the question, too. That’s like an old-timer pitcher in baseball who knew the Masakari style14 where he’d throw a fast straight ball without any signs.
No, but this was Isshiki. She definitely asked on purpose. And the reason why she was at this club was also to validate the rumor.
Yukinoshita’s voice was cold. Behind that smile enveloped with the thin veil of the northern lights were eyes as transparent as the ice carved from the North Pole.
Isshik’s shoulders and voice shook after seeing that face to face.
“Y-Yesssss!” Isshiki pulled back her body as she made the abrupt reply and then hid behind me.
Hold it missy, don’t go using people as shields.
Yukinoshita turned to Isshiki who was peeking from over my shoulders and glared her down.
“…It’s obviously not true.” Yukinoshita asserted her clear rejection.
Isshiki nodded. “I-I know, right! I mean, I totally thought it wasn’t possible! But you just end up getting curious when you hear a rumor like that, you knooow?”
Finding that word strange, Yukinoshita looked at Yuigahama and me.
“Ahh, well, some people seem to be talking about something like that…”
“You know how we went out last time? It sounds like people saw you two and made a mistake,” said Yuigahama.
Yukinoshita let out a deep sigh looking fed up. “I see. So it’s something like petty suspicion…”
Well, for high school students, love affairs were a considerably enjoyable topic. When that involved two conspicuous individuals like Hayama and Yukinoshita, they’d want to suspect them even more.
Since Isshiki liked Hayama, it wouldn’t be strange for her to try to confirm the rumor. I looked at Isshiki and she was tilting her head in contemplation.
“But doesn’t this sound pretty bad?”
“I suppose so. It certainly is bothersome to the people involved.”
“Ah, no, I didn’t mean that.”
Isshiki modestly turned down that idea and Yukinoshita inclined her head to the side.
“What do you mean?” Yukinoshita asked.
Isshiki stuck up a finger. “There hasn’t ever been a rumor that specific for Hayama-senpai before, strangely enough.”
“Ahh, that’s true…” Yuigahama looked up at the ceiling and answered in agreement.
I see. Now that she brought it up, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about Hayama Hayato’s love situation. No, well, it’s not like I knew about anyone else. There’s no one that would tell me, after all… As Yukinoshita mentioned earlier, the only thing I could do was suspect. Or I could even try googling with Kokkuri-san15.
“That’s why all the girls seem super interested in that rumor, you knooow.” Isshiki nodded with her arms crossed.
Hayama Hayato never had a frivolous rumor like this before. So if it’s about whom he was going out with, of course, it’s going to be about him. It wouldn’t be strange at all. The girls who held interest in Hayama likely had their misgivings about it. And those misgivings actualized into this rumor. Just what kind of effect would that have on the human relationships surrounding Hayama?
“…A rumor, huh? Rather karmic, isn’t it?” Yukinoshita muttered. Her tone wasn’t directed at anyone. The tea cup she was looking at had formed small ripples.
“W-Well, you know! If you just ignore it, it should go away eventually! You know how they say rumors last only for 49 days!”
“It’s 75 days.”
Who died? Was there a recent Buddhist memorial service16 or something?
“Anyway! Let’s just ignore it, okay?” said Yuigahama, being considerate of Yukinoshita.
Certainly, the only thing we could right now was just to stay quiet. Complaining to the people talking about the rumor out of fun was pointless. We just needed to be as quiet as shells that were deeply submerged under water. Staying silent in the face of malicious misunderstandings and trends of fun was the only countermeasure.
Getting flustered and desperately arguing back is grounds for nitpicking. As long as their objective remains to be for fun, any form of action can be used as material for their attacks. On top of that, covering for the person will only make you their next target. You can play Roshambo, but you’ll be confirmed the only loser regardless of what the outcome is. You can be criticized for doing nothing as well, but the damage from doing nothing is the lowest you can receive.
Yukinoshita seemed to understand that and made a small nod. “…I suppose so.”
“Okay, let’s get back on schedule and… resume work!”
When Yuigahama let out an even brighter voice, Yukinoshita responded with a smile and took out a laptop.
“Resume work”… What an unpleasant saying.
× × ×
Work had to be done no matter how unpleasant it is. In fact, it’s called work exactly because it’s unpleasant. And our very first unpleasant work of the New Year was to check the mail.
A laptop covered in dust was pulled from the corner of the clubroom for the purpose of going through the “Chiba Prefecture Problem Consultation Mails” that had been neglected for a while.
The laptop that Hiratsuka-sensei had borrowed from somewhere was a considerably old model, so it took some time to boot up.
While waiting for it, Yukinoshita rummaged through her bag. After cheerfully taking out a glasses case, she silently slipped on the glasses.
When I met her gaze behind the lenses, I instinctively pretended to yawn and looked away. At the corner of my eyes, I could see Yukinoshita casting her face downwards.
“Ah, Yukinon, you look really good in that!” said Yuigahama.
“R-Really?” Yukinoshita gently touched the frame of her glasses and made a probing glance in my direction.
“…Well, yeah… that’s true…”
I felt somehow itchy having my present used so early that I could only manage a hazy reply.
“…Thank you.” She said with a small voice and turned her head away in seeming disinterest.
I nodded my head back silently and sipped the tea from my teacup.
Isshiki curiously looked at Yukinoshita. “Yukinoshita-senpai, did you always wear glasses?”
“…They’re PC glasses.” Yukinoshita mumbled her answer in difficulty without removing her eyes from the laptop’s monitor.
Not looking the least interested, Isshiki let out a lax voice while rubbing her paper cup. “Ohhh.”
That sure was one apathetic response…
But I did appreciate her indifference.
Had the conversation gone any further, I was sure I was going to squirm in embarrassment. Just look at me now I was fidgeting and my eyes were swimming all over the place!
I adjusted my seat, oddly unable to keep still. Sitting diagonally opposite of me, Yuigahama muttered. “Maybe I should wear glasses too…”
“You don’t even look at computers,” I said.
Yuigahama turned indignant.
“Maybe I don’t! No, actually, I am looking! I totally am! Yukinon, let me see the computer, too!” Yuigahama moved her seat next to Yukinoshita and peered at the computer. “Oh, it looks like we have mail.”
“Yes, it looks like it’s from… Miura-san,” said Yukinoshita, and she rotated the computer towards me.
[How’s everyone deciding between the humanities and the sciences?]
Yeah. This was definitely from Miura. She had sent a mail to us before using this name.
Since the monitor was facing me, Isshiki trotted over to my rear with her plate of cake and looked at the screen.
“Mmhmm, so this is about the career path thing, huh? So, which of the two is actually better to go with?” Isshiki placed her fork at her mouth, looked up at me while chewing her cake and asked.
For high school students considering university exams, this question was a problem they had thought over on some occasion. It appeared that Isshiki wasn’t an exception.
“Well, if we’re just talking about easy exams, then the humanities are much less stressful. That being said, it’s completely different between public and private schools. For public schools, you need to study for five subjects and seven courses, but for private schools, you just need to study for English, Japanese, and social studies,” I said, giving my opinion.
Isshiki took a step backwards. “…Whoa. Senpai, could it be that you get good grades normally?”
“What’s with the ‘could’……? Eh? ‘Whoa’? Did you just go ‘whoa’? Just what exactly do you take me for…?”
Then, Isshiki made a perky smile and spoke as if saying something good. “Oh, I can’t answer that… See, I’m just not very good at saying bad things about people, you knooow?”
Like I’d know. Also, that’s pretty much an insult already… What’s with this girl…? As I was watching Isshiki, she also looked at me in admiration.
“Senpai, I knew you looked super smart, but you get good grades like normal too, hmmm?”
Mmhmm, don’t tell me, Iroha-chan. Are you acting stubborn because you don’t want to think I’m smart, hmm? Your choice of words is just a little crude, okay?
“Yeah! That’s so true. You see, Hikki’s grades are good only in humanities.”
Yuigahama clapped her hands in approval and boasted.
Why are you acting proud…? Also, please don’t emphasize “only in humanities”.
Next to her, Yukinoshita brushed away the hair at her shoulders and made a bold smile. “That’s true. He does have rather good grades. But they aren’t good enough to take the top.”
Why are you acting proud…? Okay, I could see why. Her grades were better than mine, after all…
“So that means senpai’s going with the humanities?”
Isshiki replied with a totally unconcerned “ohhh” when I answered. Don’t ask me then. Isshiki then cleared her throat as if indicating she was going into the main topic.
“…So, did Hayama-senpai already decide what to do?”
“Ahh, it looks like Hayato-kun’s already made his decision,” said Yuigahama, remembering.
Isshiki abruptly leaned forward. “Eh, no way? What did Hayama-senpai pick? Like, I just want to know as a reference. It’ll be for my future, so if possible, I’d like to know myself.”
“Mmm, I’m not really sure what it was that he wrote down… Hayato-kun already turned in his questionnaire, too…”
“Oh, I see…” Isshiki dropped her shoulders in dejection.
Finding her pitiful, Yuigahama said in consideration, “Ah, if you want a reference, I know what Tobecchi is doing!”
“No, Tobe-senpai is fine.”
Reference for what exactly…? As I was astounded, Yukinoshita looked at the monitor with a puzzled face and let out a brief sigh.
“Ah, no, I just thought it was a little unexpected for that Miura-san to be worrying like this.”
“That’s a horrible thing for you to say… I mean, Miura may have a Queen-like temperament with that personality, but I’m sure she has her own worries, too.”
“Who’s the one saying horrible things here…? I didn’t mean it like that,” said Yukinoshita, placing her hand to her temple along with an astonished sigh. “I just think it’s unexpected for someone like Miura-san since she seems like a very decisive person. It looks like even Tobe-kun had already decided on a career path, too…”
Was that last part really necessary…? It’s like Tobe became some sort of unrelated victim now… I made a wry smile and Yuigahama ahead of me did the same.
“Ahaha… I mean, even Yumiko gets worried about some things, too. It’s our career path and all.”
“Are career paths really worth worrying about?”
If you have things you want to do, then you should just pick the choice that works for you. If not, then you can just pick university. Isn’t this how high school students in general think?
At most, the only things to worry about in regards to the humanities and sciences are the subject exams and your choices of schools. There are also people who worried about the simplicity of earning units and requirements after enrolling into university and the advantages and disadvantages when job hunting. But if you eliminate the “things you don’t want to do”, your answer should come to you naturally.
People have a hard time finding the things they want to do, but things they don’t want to do immediately come to mind.
Yuigahama made a complicated look. “Mmm, that’s not what I mean… You know, like, how everyone’s going to be apart? It’s hard to pick when you think about that.”
“Well, yeah… But that’s just how it is.”
Somewhere and someday, things will eventually end. I’m sure that’s natural. That should be even truer for high school life which has a set number of years. I was aware that everyone would be going their separate ways down the road.
That’s why I could only say what I did.
Yuigahama slightly dropped her shoulders. “Uh huh. I know that, but… It’s just, like, what we want to do and what we’re aiming for are all over the place, so… Besides, if we split up into the humanities and the sciences, we won’t be able to stay in the same classes…”
“By that logic, I’ll always be in another class since my curriculum is different in the first place…” Yukinoshita said with a quiet voice and turned her face away.
It looked like she was pouting, finding that difficult to understand. Yukinoshita belonged to the International Cultivation class, so her normal curriculum was different from ours. In the first place, she had only one class, so she’d be stuck with that class for three years.
“S-Sorry, Yukinon! That’s not what I wanted to say… I-I mean I don’t really get it, but it’s totally okay even if you’re in a different class, Yukinon!” Yuigahama quickly embraced Yukinoshita.
Indeed. How beautiful it is to be good friends.17 Gahama-san and Yukinon are best friends forever!
Examining us suspiciously the entire time, Isshiki lifted her face. “Ahh, so that’s what’s going on.”
“Say what?” I asked.
Isshiki made an elated smile and pointed at the computer. “This mail is from Miura-senpai, right? So what Miura-senpai wants to know is about Hayama-senpai, don’t you think? Your classes will be determined by this for next year, after all.”
You don’t say. A short mail like this had that deep of a meaning packed into it? Translating girl-lingo sentences was too hard. If this was a compulsory class, wouldn’t there be people flunking one after the other? On the same note, translations of boy-lingo sentences typically amounted to “I want to be popular”, so they were the easiest to understand.
So we were able to figure out the meaning behind the mail thanks to Isshiki Iroha, a member of the girl-lingo committee, but there was one problematic point.
“But would Miura do something roundabout like this? Putting Isshiki aside.”
“Senpai, what exactly do you take me foooor…?” Isshiki glared at me in discontent.
Well, you were the one who used me as a pretense to ask about Hayama’s career path earlier…
But it looked like there were things only fellow girls could understand as Yuigahama was moaning in contemplation. Ah, by the way, she was still hugging Yukinoshita, who was completely at her mercy.
“That makes sense… I mean she was pretty worried about it in class, so maybe… Yumiko’s quite the maiden in her own way, too…”
“I knooow! Look at me, I’m a total maiden too, right?” Isshiki nodded and sought my agreement.
Hmmm… Isshiki and Miura didn’t really feel like maidens… Miura particularly, she was more like a gang leader, Yokohama in particular. I wonder if it’s because of her name.18
But well, Miura was the one who brought up the topic about career paths with everyone. Yuigahama and Ebina-san was one thing, but I couldn’t imagine Miura having any interest in Tobe’s choice. I know I didn’t.
In the same way Isshiki used me as a pretense to ask about Hayama’s career path earlier, this meant Miura went through the steps in order to ask the target of her interest the same thing. The person in question ended up refusing with a reason very typical of him, though…
So that’s why we received an investigative mail like this.
If what Isshiki said was true about Miura wanting to be in the same classes as Hayama next year as well, then she had to choose the same path.
Every year, the third year classes were organized into seven classes for the humanities and three classes for the sciences. You’re betting against luck even if you chose the same path to be in the same classes, but the possibility never existed in the first place if you chose something different.
On top of that, the classes for the humanities and the sciences were on separate floors. The humanities and sciences were separated into classes, the former on the second floor and the latter on the first.
The more distance placed between them, the less chances they’d have to meet. This was a matter of life and death for maidens in love.
“Then, couldn’t she just ask him herself?” said Yukinoshita while pulling Yuigahama off of her.
It must’ve been suffocating having Yuigahama clinging onto her the entire time even though it was winter. Her taut arms closely resembled a cat that grew tired of being hugged.
“It did come up when were together in class, but Hayato-kun said to think about it on your own and he didn’t tell us what he picked…”
“Isn’t that because everyone was there? If it’s just you two, then you can smoothly ask him. That might earn you some points, tooooo.”
“It’s not that easy.”
Isshiki explained to us while she was wagging her finger, but unfortunately, I’m sure it wasn’t that simple of a problem.
Even if you thought you were close, there were a lot of things you couldn’t ask about.
About the future. About the present. And about the past. There’s no telling where a land mine could be buried.
What would happen if you forced yourself to ask something only to receive an answer you weren’t hoping for? Just the thought of it caused you to be at a loss for words.
I indulged in my thoughts and Yukinoshita spoke up. “What shall we do about this consultation?”
“Well, for now, let’s try giving it a shot.”
Our original purpose wasn’t to interfere with a person’s relationships, but providing support was within the scope of our work. Besides, if we managed to restore Hayama and Miura’s relationship back to normal, then that worthless rumor should disappear as well.
“Got it! I’ll try asking again tomorrow.”
“I suppose so. That may be a good idea. I’m sorry, but can we count on you?”
“Yeah!” Yuigahama cheerfully answered, but quickly made a dejected look and added. “I’m not sure if he’ll tell me though…”
Well, since Hayama didn’t tell Miura or Tobe in class, it’s hard to imagine he’d tell Yuigahama who was classified on the same level as those two. For the same reason, it’d be impossible for Isshiki.
Judging from Hayama’s tone in class, I think what Hayama was worried about was limiting the choices of the people he was close with because of his influence.
In that case, a person who was outside of that category, a person who wouldn’t be influenced should ask him. Those who fell under that category were limited.
I glanced at Yukinoshita.
But she was bending her head slightly to the side in wonder.
…Well, it’d be inane to have Yukinoshita approach Hayama when that rumor had already made its way around. Hayama not telling us his career path wouldn’t be the problem. We’d end up with another problem altogether instead.
I guess I’m the only one… Though, anything good coming from me asking was another story.
“I guess we don’t have a choice. I’ll ask him…” I said, and Yuigahama and Yukinoshita looked at me in surprise.
“Eh, Hikki will?”
“Will you be okay? Are you sure… you can hold a conversation?”
“You’re concerned about the wrong thing here… Actually, I don’t have any confidence either.”
Even so, as fellow natives, we should be able to at least talk to each other. Well, my words could get through to him, but that didn’t mean we’d understand each other. There, too, were things that couldn’t get across with the usage of barely similar languages. That’s being negative, not native, wasn’t it?
“But it’s not like there isn’t a possibility.”
“What do you mean?”
“If he’s not telling the people he’s close with, then the only thing we can try is the opposite. It’s because a person’s unrelated that you could tell him things.”
“…I see. So it’s something like confessing and repenting.”
“Repenting…” Yuigahama repeated the word that she wasn’t familiar with, her mouth opened.
I’ll explain that to her later… Yukinoshita was slightly exaggerating, but she wasn’t off the mark.
In our everyday lives, there were plenty of things to be repentant about. You had middle-aged men casually complaining to other people at the counter of a bar or a pub and there were even people who recited the story of their life to an unknown number of anonymous people on SNS and bulletin boards. It’s because there was a nonexistent relationship between both parties that there were things they could talk about. Though in my case, saying things to people I didn’t know was impossible and also something I didn’t like.
“Anyway, I’ll try asking. There’s no harm in trying.”
This was what corporate slaves would call “act dumb and listen”. This skill of coincidentally overhearing information was a required for newcomer corporate slaves. The way you work was dependent on whether you’re able to use this skill. My source was my papan grumbling about new employees nowadays. When I think about having to work under a superior like that, my desire to work went up in smoke, but still. Regardless, I was on the verge of acquiring another corporate slave ability again…
But it’s not like we had any other method. So the only thing was to try asking the person in question personally.
Once we cleared the initial stage of figuring out our course of action, Isshiki stood up after a short sigh.
“Okay, I’m going to head back now. Thank you for the tea. Yui-senpai, if you learn anything, please let me know, too!” Isshiki said. She bowed her head and was going to leave the room.
I called to her back. “Hey, your stuff.”
Isshiki turned back from where she was and played it off with a “teehee” smile. She then picked up the stacked cardboard box at the corner of the room.
“Here we go, oomph.”
Nothing was more dangerous than Isshikii’s staggering footing as she carried the cardboard box in her arms. Before I knew it, I had extended my hands out and took the boxes from Isshiki. My Komachi training skill had automatically activated. I really couldn’t deactivate this skill at all…
“Th-Thank you very much! Also, can I ask you to carry them to the student council room, too?”
Well, guess I’ll have to. I turned around at the front of the door to inform Yukinoshita and Yuigahama first before leaving and the both of them had stopped entirely and were staring at the cardboard box.
Huh? Why are you guys quiet?
“…Alright, I’m going to carry these over real fast,” I said.
Then, Yukinoshita twitched in response and began cleaning up the tableware, still silent. Again, why are you quiet…?
When she was nearly done, she turned to Yuigahama. “…Shall we stop here for today?”
“R-Right! Let’s all carry the stuff over then!” Yuigahama answered and stood up noisily from her seat. She grabbed her backpack and started out the room. Yukinoshita carried her bag around her shoulder and slowly walked. Isshiki was watching them in confusion.
“Ummm… we don’t really need that many people…”
“…I’m locking the room, so can you please leave the room?”
Yukinoshita urged her with a cold smile and Isshiki frantically went out the room.
The deserted hallway felt far much colder than the atmospheric temperature.
The hallway of the special building was suspended in a dim glow whereas it was already completely dark outside.
I readjusted the cardboard box in my hand as I was watching the three walk in front of me.
Messily packed inside were the ornaments used during the Christmas event.
|Chapter 2||Top||Chapter 4|
- Q.E.D – A detective manga and also stands for quod erat demonstandum in Latin in Philosophy. ↩
- Spirals: The Bonds of Reasoning – Shonen mystery manga ↩
- END OF VACATION – I think this is a parody of the rock band SEKAI NO OWARI which means End of the World. END OF VACATION in Japanese is YASUMI NO OWARI. ↩
- Let’s do my best today, too. (kyou mo ichinichi ganbaru zoi) – A new trendy phrase that is a catchphrase of the MC in a recent new manga, New Game! ↩
- Pokemon – When you use an attack that’s efffective against a certain type, you get the Super Effective! message. ↩
- Pokemon – When all your Pokemon faint, you black out. ↩
- Coupling between elements equals coupling between men. ↩
- TOKIO – Adaptability is “tekiouryoku” and this is associated with TOKIO. The association stems from the guys from TOKIO being put on a deserted island and their ability to adapt was apparently really high.. ↩
- Iroha ga Kill! – Parody of Akame ga Kill! ↩
- Battousai the Manslayer – Rurouni Kenshin’s old nickname. ↩
- Aguirre Japan – Javier Aguirre is a the current manager of Japan’s national football team. “Astonished” in Japanese is “akire” and Aguirre’s name is “agiire”. Wordplay. ↩
- Keroyon – Frog mascot. “Unperturbed” is “kerori” in Japanese. Wordplay. ↩
- The Hurt Locker – War movie. Mines obviously involved. ↩
- Masakari Style – A style of Chouji Murata, a Japanese pitcher. ↩
- Gugure! Kokkuri-san ↩
- 49 days – Buddhist estimation of a spirit being reborn into a new life. ↩
- A line from a poem written by Saneatsu Mushanokoji. ↩
- Miura Daisuke – A pitcher for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. His nickname is “Hama no Banchou”, in English, “The Gang Leader/Boss of Yokohama”. ↩