It’s been some time since we entered the month of February.
The winter chill was still as harsh as ever and every time the arid north wind blew by, the glass windows of the classroom would rattle.
By the time short homeroom for the rest of the day had ended, the temperatures plunged even further. My seat, close to the hallway, unfortunately didn’t receive much heating and small breezes would slip in through the unnoticeable gaps of the doors. When they brushed against the nape of my neck, I shuddered.
However, I looked over at the windows and the sun was still elevated high in the sky. The length of the afternoon had progressively gotten longer
According to the calendar, the vernal equinox was coming up soon. But every year around this time when it’s this cold, you ended up thinking, “How could you even call this spring, is ‘Spring Has Come’1 playing in your head all the time or something?”
But there’s also the saying: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”2
It was after school and the atmosphere of the class was showing steady signs of the upcoming spring.
A little less than a month to go and that would mark the awakening of insects3 on the calendar.
Thanks to the effective heating in the classroom, my classmates had suddenly become animated just like how insects, frogs, and snakes would wake from their hibernation slightly earlier than expected by the calendar.
The window side of the classroom looked especially warm due to the heating being right below the window frames. A single group occupying that area was incredibly lively in spirit. Today like every other, I could hear their loud, conspicuous voices.
“Man, I could go for something sweet any time today,” Tobe said, flapping the ends of his hair. Oooka and Yamato hit their knees as though they knew what Tobe was talking about and pointed at him.
“You got that right.”
Then, the three exchanged gazes.
“You know what I mean……? Better chocolate than never, yeah?” Tobe said, being pointlessly dramatic. The three of them made triumphant looks and shot glances over at the girls… Mmm, I thought we were nearing spring, but it still feels like we’re in the middle of winter!
But Miura’s reaction was far more callous and cold compared to their trite act.
After a small click of her tongue, she gave the idiot trio an apathetic look that shut them up. Yuigahama and Ebina-san made a stiff smile.
“Oh yeah, it’s about that time of the year, huh…?” Hayama said, taking the middle ground between the two groups. Oooka and Yamato nodded their heads.
“You’ve got it good Hayato-kun, but we’re pretty screwed.”
Oooka stated solemnly while Yamato nodded in assertion. His words certainly did make it sound like it was a serious problem. Still, this opportunistic virgin’s jealousy is so garbage that it’s kind of wonderful… I thought. Then, Tobe made a giddy smirk while patting Hayama’s shoulder.
“Nah, Hayato-kun usually doesn’t accept anything.”
“Are you kidding!? What a waste!”
Oooka shouted causing Hayama to make a strained laugh. I see, he likely chose that route so he could avoid unnecessary trouble.
However, for girls that were in love with him, they might not be so eager to accept that. The head of that pack, Miura, was listening in on their conversation in silence while facing away from them with a disinterested expression.
Watching her, Yuigahama went “ah” and spoke.
“But hey, it’s kinda scary getting things from people you don’t know.” Yuigahama nodded her head to show she could sympathize with him.
Following her, Ebina-san struck out her hand with a serious look and stopped the conversation. “Wait. If he won’t accept anything, that means… he’ll take them instead. So the one getting taken would be Hikitani-kun?”
The moment she finished, Miura flicked her head. What the hell is she saying with that serious look of hers…? Miura took out a pocket tissue and pressed it on Ebina-san.
“Ebina, your nose is bleeding.”
“Oh, thanks, thanks.”
Ebina-san held back her suspicious laughter as she blew her nose and Miura showed a soft smile. Being immediately next to the heating as well as various other factors, all the individuals gathered over there looked rather warm.
No, they weren’t the only ones. The entire classroom was enveloped by the same warmth. The giddy mood wasn’t limited only to the idiot trio of Tobe and the other two, but other groups spread out in the classroom.
Officially, Valentine’s Day was coming very soon.
In other words, it’s the day you received chocolate from your mom and little sister.
Valentine’s Day was a day full of blessed love, but that understanding wasn’t without problems. Considering how the event came to be, it’s actually a day when blood was shed. Originally started from a saint, it’s also the day a struggle occurred between gangs. Besides, someone from Chiba wouldn’t even think twice about chocolate because they’d think about Bobby4 instead.
But it didn’t matter what the opinions of someone like me had, it’s impossible to overturn the general understanding of the event. In fact, if I were to preach the event as a conspiracy of the current confectionary industry, I’d easily be branded a heretic.
Valentine’s Day had already firmly taken root in the culture of Japan. Christmas was more or less similar in that regard. Eventually, Halloween might even get adapted to Japanese customs, too. The summer festival, the Bon Festival dance, or the graveyard visits during the spring or fall equinoxes weren’t all that much different.
Basically, it’s an issue of whether you liked them or hated them. No one’s questioning that they’re orthodox or blasphemous. If you’re going to reject them, whether it’s Christmas or Valentine’s day, you should just scream, “I hate them!”
Since Komachi would slyly give me chocolate every year, I didn’t hate Valentine’s Day all that much. As a matter of fact, since I loved Komachi so much as her older brother, I was anxiously waiting for the day to come.
I wonder what kind of expensive chocolate she’s going to force out of me as a return gift this year… As I engrossed myself in happy thoughts about wasting money on my little sister, the class grew boisterous.
“God, I’m not going to make it!”
“It’s okay, you still have time! Just keep going! Don’t give up!”
I casually looked over and a caste of girls sitting at different seats, either the second or third group from the top, was knitting some kind of muffler or sweater. It’s almost like I was listening to a conversation between a light novelist and his editor. Look, normally, you’re not going to make it. It’s almost Valentine’s Day and your progress is only at about ten percent. Rather than putting effort into making it on time for the deadline, it’d be more productive and realistic to try to extend it instead!
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one watching that heartbreaking exchange.
Miura was twirling her hair with her fingers and breathed out.
“…Well, handmade things might be too pushy? Makes sense why you wouldn’t accept them.”
After listlessly saying those words, a faint sigh came from a different direction.
“Pushy… I guess so…” Yuigahama rubbed the bun of her peach-colored hair with her thin fingers that stretched out of her slightly loose cardigan. She then made a troubled, but embarrassed smile.
After seeing that smile, something suddenly came to mind from some time ago.
Just who was she making those cookies for? As I thought that, I looked towards her and our eyes met. Yuigahama and I averted our faces away in reaction.
“Well, it’s the feelings that count, not what you get.”
Hayama’s voice had a strained ring to it.
“You got that right! Nah, but see? I’m totally all over that, you know what I mean?” Tobe immediately hit his knees and expressed his agreement. Diagonally from him, Ebina-san crossed her arms and slid her gaze to the side.
“But you can’t screw up with handmade chocolate or else you’ll get exposed. And since it doesn’t cost that much to begin with, that’s kind of off-putting. Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy premade ones instead?”
As soon as Ebina-san finished, Tobe changed his opinion… Come on, you could at least try a little harder.
“…Mmhmm, handmade, huh?”
Following Miura’s disinterested voice was a burst of their cheery laughs.
There existed a division in their group just a little while ago, but it was no longer there.
Hayama was sincerely acting as the Hayama Hayato that everyone sought while Miura was slowly, but surely trying to shorten their distance in her own way. As for Tobe and Ebina-san, well, they looked the same as always, but after some time had passed, they had created a mood that fit them both.
And Yuigahama happily watched them.
The classroom was restless, but even so, their place which had leisurely grown warm like the slow transition to spring was a little too bright to watch from the side that I slightly closed my eyes.
× × ×
The air permeating the hallway leading to the special building was frigid and parched. I felt my lips crack and my body stiffen.
Condensation was visible on the glass windows of the classroom, but not the hallway which had a clear look into the school courtyard. It was filled with shedding trees and bare beds of flowers, a dusty and dark brown spectacle of winter unlike one seen in the northern parts of Japan.
Not very much snow fell in Chiba. The scarce amount was prominent even in the Kanto region of Japan that was unfamiliar with snow. Last month, the news reported snow falling in Tokyo, but not a single drop was seen in Chiba.
The lack of anything wintry made it superfluously cold. Feeling the difference in warmth from the classroom I was in earlier, I lifted up the muffler wrapped around my neck.
The reason why that place in class felt warm wasn’t because of how close it was to the heating. It’s because the fissures that plagued it were filled.
I’m sure Hayama and everyone weren’t waiting dramatically for their final moments, but peacefully and warmly, as if exactly the way the world and life would end. The reality that bliss and peace was maintained through everyone’s efforts had sunk in.
It’s possible that the experience of going through numerous winters allowed them to understand that spring would eventually arrive.
Waiting ahead for us wasn’t a spring of warmth, but a spring of parting. Like the storm which comes when flowers bloom, the good friend goes away.
Our classes would change and we would build new human relationships. Next year, this season was the time we’d be right in the middle of testing and no longer be required to go to school. That’s why, everyone enjoyed and valued this winter, peacefully waiting for it to come to an end.
In that, there’s an apparent warmth as well as a faint chill. I mumbled “cold, cold” into my muffler as I walked and the sound of light footsteps echoed from behind.
I turned around and my shoulder received a light shock. I was met with a glum look from Yuigahama.
“Why’d you leave first…?”
“You didn’t say anything about leaving together…” I said unpleasantly, not having an idea of why she took that attitude.
Yuigahama’s mouth dropped open and she gently brushed her hair in embarrassment. “…Oh, I totally thought you were waiting for me. You stayed in class for a while, so…”
“That’s not really…”
While speaking, I gave some thought to the reason why I stayed behind. It’s true that Yuigahama invited me to head to club together several times. Perhaps that’s why I found myself waiting with the assumption that she’d come over to talk to me.
But another proper reason came to mind.
“Yeah, I just wanted to see how Hayama and Miura were doing.”
“Ahh, right. I think they’re good now, so I’m glad.”
Yuigahama let out a small breath and weakly nodded. She then proceeded a few steps ahead of me in the empty hallway and twisted her body.
“It’s kinda nice, you know? I’m sure everyone’s thinking about all kinds of stuff, but it’s like they’re trying to live their lives as much as they can now while cherishing it…”
She stated each word in emphasis, wearing a gentle smile on her expression.
“Yeah, I guess. We’re probably having the best time of our lives right now.”
“Ohh, you’re unusually positive…”
“When you recall the past, you want to die from regret and when you think about the future, you get depressed from anxiety. So by elimination, our time now is pure bliss.”
“You were being negative, after all!” Yuigahama dropped her shoulders with a sullen look. She then briskly walked ahead and voiced her complaints. “There you go again with that stuff… Can’t you read the mood?”
Like what kind of mood?
For example, the mood on Valentine’s Day?
I suppose I could understand in that case. Occasionally, I’d learn from the masses, take in the mood, and play it off. Then, I’d just brush it all off with a simple “it’s what everyone’s doing.” Doing that made you want to have expectations, be spoiled, lose yourself, and wait.
But I don’t think that’s something you should do.
It’d be insincere if all you did was wait. Regardless of the answer and conclusion awaiting you at the end of the tunnel, you should make sure to take that step forward without deception and incredulity and leave the regrets for afterwards.
That’s why, I took in the mood and decided to ask now.
“By the way…”
I squeezed out those words with a hoarse voice and Yuigahama turned around. Her inclined head and her eyes urged me to go on. Seeing her straight-on was somewhat dazzling that I slightly averted my face.
“…Do you have a day you’re free on soon?”
“Huh? U-Um, yeah, I do… I think, “ Yuigahama said, prattling on and moving her hands in surprise. She fidgeted as she frantically took out her cellphone. But then, her movements abruptly stopped.
She shot a glance to the door of the club. After that, she had trouble bringing out her voice. And unlike earlier, her expression sank.
I was slightly surprised to see that and hesitated to ask why she was making that face, finding myself choking as well. The air in the hallway was awfully cold and dry that I had an uneasy sensation as if something was stuck in my throat.
Asking her that now in this place might’ve not been the best choice. Or perhaps, there might’ve been a better or smoother way to do so. Would it be weird to ask again? I just wasn’t confident in any of those.
Unable to exchange any more words, I glanced at her face, my back still slumped and my eyes downcast. The problematic smile that she wore caused me to lose my breath.
To fill up the silence, Yuigahama quickly said, “Let me think about it and I’ll tell you later!”
Was I relieved or just exhausted? Perhaps, something much more different?
Whatever it was, since I had let out a deep sigh at the same time, Yuigahama didn’t wait for my response, walked a few steps ahead, and opened the door to the clubroom.
× × ×
The door flung open. We walked through it and the room inside was enveloped by an air of coziness.
There were far more people in the classroom, yet strangely enough, I found it more comfortable here. Though, that could’ve been just a side effect of the sunlight that easily penetrated this clubroom in the special building.
With the gentle sunlight pouring on to her, sitting at her usual seat was Yukinoshita Yukino.
She lifted up her face from the paperback in her hand, quietly brushed her hair upwards, and softly smiled. “Hello.”
Yuigahama responded with a raised hand while I returned my typical greeting and we proceeded to take our respective seats.
I wasn’t sure exactly when, but this seat had become my place. No one had qualms with me sitting here, nor did anyone decree I had to, nor did anyone force me to. It was far more pleasant than I was expecting it to be.
And that alone was reason enough for me to feel pangs of discomfort from the presence I wasn’t accustomed to seeing.
“Senpai, you’re so slooooow.”
“And why are you here again…?”
Laying on the desk while indignantly kicking her feet was this school’s resident Student Council President, Isshiki Iroha. Her gestures, whether it’s her intentional sullen look or the way she was averting her face, were all so sly… No, but seriously, I can’t believe she got here earlier than Yuigahama and me. Is she trying to be as swift as some kind of breeze?5
“I asked her if she had some business here, but she wanted to wait for you two to come. So, she’s been here ever since,” Yukinoshita said, mixed with a sigh. She then deliberately sent an even colder glance to her. Despite that, she didn’t forget to be hospitable and had prepared some tea for her. There’s just so many ways of being hospitable that I want to start a Collection6!
As for the aforementioned Isshiki, she wasn’t concerned with Yukinoshita’s ice gaze. She turned towards me, placed her hand to her mouth, and whispered secretively.
“Yukinoshita-senpai had such a nice smile when I got here, but she got really bummed out right after… She’s been acting like that the entire time.”
Ahh, really now… Well, duh, every time Isshiki shows up, she’s always accompanied with nothing worthwhile, hahaha. No seriously, why are you even here? I thought. Then, there was a weak cough.
Upon looking, Yukinoshita had a broad smile. Uh oh, it’s that smile! The one that Yukinon makes when she’s being scary!
“Y-Yesss! I’m so sorry, I really do have some business here!”
Isshiki ran behind me and pushed me forward, as though it was her conditioned reflex to cower away from that smile. Hey, stop it, that smile scares the hell out of me too, you know.
“W-Well, let’s calm down. Iroha-chan, are you here for the Student Council?” Yuigahama mediated and waved at her to come back.
With a nonchalant face going “Yui-senpai, you’re so nice!” she returned to her original location.
I gave her an inquisitive look asking what she needed. Then, her face became even more nonchalant and she flapped her hand. “The thing is, it feels like I have a lot more free time than I thought I would or something?”
Again with her nonsense… I hope you didn’t forget that you were the one who made us go through all that trouble last time… Or is it because we finished all that work for you that you have nothing better to do? I don’t suppose this is one of those burn-out syndromes that happens when you’re constantly subjected to cruel labor or something…? But it feels like we’re the ones who burned out, so what’s her issue again? I gave her a stern look, digging into the meaning of her words.
She placed her index finger to her chin and cutely tilted her head. “There’s like no school events around this time of the year and the VP’s taking care of all the small stuff for me. All I have left is just to stamp our year-end report.”
You don’t say. I wasn’t familiar with what the work of the Student Council entailed, but surprisingly, that’s the kind of things they’re involved in, huh? The third years were well into their testing season while the school administration was occupied with the school entrance exams for new students.
That meant the current students were left unattended. Anyone would have nothing to do because of that.
“That’s why, when there isn’t anything going on, I put the Student Council on break.”
Ohhh, a manager from a white company… Coincidentally, this club that forced us to gather in this room even when there wasn’t any work to do was undoubtedly a black company7!
And speaking of our resident black company manager, she nodded her head, moving her hand to her chin.
“Don’t you have club to attend to as well?” Yukinoshita said, slanting her head to the side.
Isshiki cheeks slightly blushed as if from embarrassment and she sweetly averted her face.
“………It’s really cold at the Soccer Club nowadays.”
That’s something to be ashamed about, not embarrassed. Yukinoshita pressed her hand against her temple in an attempt to hold back a headache while Yuigahama forcibly laughed.
“A-Ahaha… So, what did you need?” Yuigahama asked.
Then, Isshiki cleared her throat and turned her body towards me. “So senpai, I don’t really care, but do you like sweets?”
“If you’re talking about Hayama, I’m sure he’ll be happy to eat whatever you give him.”
I understood Isshiki’s general behavior all too well. I took the initiative and answered causing her to inflate her cheeks from boredom. Listening to her, Yuigahama seemed to recall something.
“Oh, but it sounds like Hayato-kun’s not accepting any chocolate, though.”
“Ehhh, why’s that?”
“…Wh-Who knows?” Yuigahama inclined her head in confusion.
Then, Yukinoshita let out a brief sigh. “It’s obviously because of the disputes that will ensue. During elementary, the classroom the follow day would see sparks flying all over the place…”
“…Ahhhh, I think I can see that.”
Isshiki and Yuigahama nodded. Yep, yep, I totally can see that, too. Totally!
I could easily imagine a huge commotion in the classroom next day where the girls would hold a “So Exciting ☆ Women Only Witch Trials of Absentia! Don’t Forget the Betrayals, Too!”8 Conversations between girls were mostly about insulting other girls (self-research).
How scary, I thought. Isshiki, who had been living her life being subjected to resentment from the underwor—I mean, the society of girls, let out a shallow sigh.
“Fine, I’ll just have to make do with you, senpai. So, do you like sweets?”
“That’s one bizarre way of asking me…”
How do you expect an honest answer out of me when it’s the same question from earlier? That feeling of being treated like a supplement and her apathy was out of this world. As those thoughts ran through my mind, a chair rocked. I looked over and Yuigahama was leaning forward.
“Hikki likes them a lot!”
On the other hand, Yukinoshita made an overbearing smile with a patronizing chuckle for one reason or another. Pressured by their behavior, Isshiki muddled her words.
“It’s kinda weird how you both answered for him, but… that’s good to hear!”
“Right… Wait, what is?”
“I’ve been wondering how sweet I should make my chocolates, you see. People have their preferences, right?” Isshiki continued, ignoring my question.
Yukinoshita tilted her head. “How sweet… Isshiki-san, are you planning to make them on your own?”
“Now that’s a surprise…” I said.
Then, Isshiki made a resentful look. “Why’s that? I’m good at making sweets, you know.”
“Dang, that must be nice. I wanna learn how to make them too, but I’m just so bad at it…”
Isshiki puffed out her small chest while Yuigahama ducked in her shoulders and hunched over in contrast. Hmm, that’s funny, the chest that’s puffing out looks a lot smaller… Is the perspective off or something? In any case, I’ll go ahead and request that be fixed for the Blu-Rays!
Anyway, in Yuigahama’s case, she was nowhere near the level of being just bad, but whatever. It’s a trivial problem in light of her chest.
“Yui-senpai, cooking is all about being sincere. When you’re making something by hand, your feelings of kindness and sympathy are what’s important. The shortcut to improvement is to consider the person you’re cooking for.”
Isshiki gently patted the depressed Yuigahama’s shoulders to comfort her and she then erected a finger. With a peaceful smile, she encouraged her.
“After all, we’re dealing with boys here who know absolutely nothing about handmade sweets. So, handmade chocolates are a piece of cake. It doesn’t cost much to make a lot and you can add your finishing touches by customizing each one to your liking. The boys will be all over them.”
“Your sympathy’s gone far beyond the horizon… Even your kindness was purely for your wallet.”
“It’s more problematic because that way of thinking isn’t wrong in the least as well…”
“It doesn’t make me happy at all…”
Met with all that feedback, even Isshiki found herself taking a step back. She then forcibly changed the topic as if trying to brush off the topic while groaning.
“Well, that was actually a joke. It’s what senpai would say… That being said, I’d like some references for making obligatory chocolate. So senpai, what kind of sweets do you like?”
“What kind, huh…? I guess this.”
What I took out was, of course, MAX COFFEE. Why, you ask? It’s because it’s special to me.
As soon as I placed the can on the table, the three of them focused their stares on me.
Um, what’s with those skeptical looks…? There isn’t a person in Chiba who’d get upset from receiving this as a sweet. At least, that’s what I wanted to say, but everyone’s faces looked considerably doubtful…
Yuigahama stared at the can and whispered. “…I bet even I can make that.”
“Like hell you can. Quit screwing around and stop looking down on MAX COFFEE. If you’re thinking you can just dump condensed milk and sugar into coffee, you’re quite mistaken. No, seriously, don’t even bother.”
“He’s actually angry at that!?”
Obviously. It’s a completely different beast from just putting condensed milk in coffee. In fact, putting coffee in condensed milk would be more convincing to me. You couldn’t achieve that sticky sweetness through normal means. It wasn’t something amateurs should stick their heads into.
Isshiki placed the tip of her finger on her lips to think and opened her mouth.
“Actually, that would put me over my budget.”
“I don’t know exactly how much you plan on making, but you’re under a rather severe budget if you’re limiting yourself to less than 130 yen a piece…” Yukinoshita said in disbelief, rubbing her temple. That, however, wasn’t a concern.
“No problem. MAX COFFEE is cheaper if you pick the right store and buy it in bulk.”
“Jeez Hikki, just how into it are you…?”
“It’s what happens when you don’t get many opportunities to drink sweet stuff. I’m always having to drink bitter stuff, after all.” I snorted bitterly.
Then, Yukinoshita brushed aside her hair along her shoulders and wore a tenacious smile. “Bitter things aren’t something you drink, but something you experience.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. But the pain I have to deal with doesn’t change. In that case, I just want to live the rest of my life drinking sweet juices.”
“It sounds like what you’re tasting aren’t bitter things, but life itself…” Yukinoshita let out a profound sigh.
No, no, it’s exactly as you said. I’m totally tasting everything bitter, even life. So based on the aforementioned, life was equal to everything bitter, so life was pain! I thought with these pointless ideas running through my mind.
Isshiki sneered. “Right. I really don’t care, though.”
How mean. Isshiki gulped down the rest of her tea, placed her paper cup down, and turned towards me.
“I wanted to hear your thoughts on the basics of obligatory chocolate.”
“Obligatory chocolate, huh…?”
I scratched my head and sifted through my memories. Unfortunately, I had no experience of receiving any, so I didn’t have much to say. The chocolate I received from my little sister was love chocolate!
As though those thoughts showed on my face, Isshiki made an unpleasant snicker.
“Ohh, senpai, you’re the type to not get any, huh? But don’t boys usually compete over who gets the most chocolate? Won’t you hurt your pride as a boy if you don’t get anything?”
“Uh, it’s not like I need them… When was Valentine’s Day a sport?”
There’s nothing simpler and clearer than determining the winner by number, but the rules were all over the place. Especially the incoming successive offside traps called obligatory chocolate! It was clearly a red card in that simulation. So, what’s an offside trap? Here I am, not knowing a single thing about the rules of soccer.
I rambled on, saying one thing after the other. Isshiki seemed to have taken my ramblings as a bluff and didn’t even bother to listen. She then sighed in disbelief while sending me a strangely warm gaze.
“I guess there’s no helping you. In that case…”
“You don’t need to be concerned for him.”
Isshiki was then interrupted by Yukinoshita. She smoothly lifted her hair and wore a composed smile while Isshiki’s mouth hung open in contrast.
“Huh…? Don’t tell me, Yukinoshita-senpai, you’re going to—“
Yukinoshita didn’t let her finish speaking and softly chuckled. “Because Hikigaya-kun doesn’t have any friends he could compete with.”
“Oh, that makes sense.”
I found myself nodding in conjunction with Isshiki, and we somehow looked like a couple of hens in a hen house. Riiight, that totally makes sense. So loners operated under primitive, jobless collectivism when it came to competitions, huh? The only problem is, it’s too primitive and a loner’s just one person.
When I was on the verge of falling into a thinking pit of what true peace really was, Yuigahama who was sitting on the side puffed her cheeks.
“I don’t think you need to worry… Besides, Hikki will get chocolate… right?” She said and sent me a reserved glance.
I nodded back with a small smile.
“Wha…? You mean…”
Isshiki alternated glances between Yuigahama and me. When her eyes that trembled as though from bewilderment crashed with mine, I instinctively let out a proud laugh.
“Hmph, you got that right… I have Komachi, after all!”
And that’s exactly why I’ll get chocolate! Woohoo! I’m so glad to have a little sister! As long you have a little sister, you’re good!
However, Isshiki tilted her head while blinking in confusion. “Huh? Komachi…? Who’s that? Is that rice?”
What, was the staple food at the Isshiki household Akitakomachi rice or something? Heck, just give me some rice from JA-Ugo9 or the collaboration rice they have. Then again, please get out there, JA-Chiba.
“Oh, Komachi-chan is Hikki’s little sister.” Yuigahama explained.
Isshiki made a completely apathetic face and let out a flat voice.
“You had a sister, senpai?”
I do. She’s a world-level little sister. As a matter of fact, she’s the world’s little sister.
I triumphantly answered and Isshiki stared at me suspiciously. She glared at me, her eyes narrowed as much as possible, and cocked her head to the side.
“No stupid, obviously not,” I said, but the reactions from my surrounding were cold.
“…Um, I’m not too sure if I can deny that,” Yuigahama said. Yukinoshita then looked down with a pensive face. Oh come on, help me out here.
Irohasu nodded her head convincingly to their responses. Then, she erected her index finger, moved it to her chin, and tilted her head with a perky smile. “Senpai, you really do like younger girls.”
“No, not really.”
Older, younger, it didn’t matter. I was the type that almightily found most people hard to deal with.
I brushed her off and Isshiki clicked her tongue.
Isshiki coughed to check her throat, sent me a single upwards glance, and immediately looked away.
She tightly gripped one hand at the bosom of her uniform while the other weakly trembled and adjusted her skirt. With moist eyes, the breaths she let out were hot.
Then, she spoke in fragments.
“Do you hate… younger girls?”
I…… do not! Yeah! If you had to ask, I absolutely loved them!
Yuigahama briefly sighed and looked at Isshiki. “You know what, the way you’re asking really is the problem…”
“…Yeah, I guess.”
Yep, I can agree with that. Though, I was finally starting to get used to it now. Isshiki didn’t find that pleasing and looked at me with resentful eyes.
That attitude caused me to make a bitter smile.
Isshiki, her behavior, and her speech were charming, but there were several reasons why her actions didn’t affect me all that much in the present. Had I been myself from long ago, I’d lose my wits within the instant, no doubt about it.
There’s just one big reason amongst them all, however, and that was simple.
“As long as I have my little sister, I like them either way, older or younger.”
“That sounds like a disease far worse than being a siscon or someone into younger girls!”
Yuigahama’s tragic scream reverberated in the room and Isshiki nodded in agreement with disgust. Now you just made me imagine what a slightly older Komachi would look like. I looked around the room hoping for someone else to agree with me and Yukinoshita was tilting her head with a complicated face and crossed arms.
“The problem is what qualifies someone as younger. Their school year? Birthday? Are they considered younger if their birthday is only a little later…? The definition’s rather vague. I believe we should sort that out first, don’t you think?” Yukinoshita said, blabbering on.
Yuigahama tapped her hands. “Oh, but hey, Hikki seems like he’d be compatible with an older girl, for sure…! I think, definitely.”
She squeezed her fist, putting a lot of strength into it. But I certainly didn’t have that obsession, yes.
“…That’s not really applicable here. If we’re talking about a year gap, it’s not that big of a difference.”
Like mainly from an income perspective! The important thing was that they could take care of me. And in regards to that, Komachi was perfect. She possessed the talent to become a top breeder.
Isshiki moaned. “Ehh, are you sure? Does Hayama-senpai think that way, too?”
“But senpai, you said that being younger is an advantage, right?”
“Yeah, I guess I did…”
Upon hearing that, I pondered.
Speaking of which, she’s a year younger, isn’t she…? It certainly didn’t feel that way because she didn’t show the least amount of regard, honor, courtesy, and respect towards me, so she didn’t feel like an underclassman at all…
Seriously, isn’t she taking me too lightly? Sure, my initials may be H2, but I wasn’t as trivial as hydrogen nor was I in any way related to baseball like a certain baseball manga10 out there. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even about baseball as it was just a romantic youth comedy. But really, it’s so famous I find myself rereading all the volumes every summer vacation.
“If anything, you were born in April, so you’re less than a year apart from me. So you don’t feel all that much younger than me, anyway.”
It’s only after I took a couple of steps back that I could feel the gap between us. If we’re talking about the age gap from like Komachi or Haruno-san, that was obvious. Hiratsuka-sensei, that’d be… yeah.
Isshiki’s really only about eight months away from me and three months from Yukinoshita. I thought. Isshiki didn’t seem to be on the same page as I was and blinked at me in surprise.
“Oh, no… I was just a bit surprised.”
When I spoke to her, she fiddled with her front bangs and tried to play it off.
On the other hand, Yuigahama at the side nosily moved her chair back to make some distance from me.
“How the heck do you know her birthday!? That’s scary! You’re creepy, Hikki… No, seriously…”
“…You seem rather informed.” Yukinoshita smiled firmly. Though it’s closer to the smile of Nikkari Aoe11 than just a pleasant smile, so there was a transparent feeling of pressure oozing from it.
“No, Isshiki mentioned it the other day with her pointlessly sly appeal…”
“Did you say pointless!? I-Is not! Actually, I’m not the one being sly, it’s you, senpai!”
Isshiki jumped up from her chair and pointed her finger at me. Actually, I’m not the one being sly, you’re the one normally being sly, Isshiki…
“I have an amazing memory, that’s why… Anyway, if you’re done here, go back to your Student Council or Soccer Club already,” I said.
Isshiki pouted in outrage while reluctantly making her way out of the room. Good grief, this girl’s acting like that again. Yeah, yeah, you’re sly, so sly.
Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, and I smiled wryly as we watched her leave. Then, the Service Club’s door, ahead of where she was heading, was knocked on.
- Spring Has Come is a song composed by Hata Motohiro. ↩
- An Ode to the West Wind. ↩
- Solar term used in East Asian calendars which typically refers to around March 5 until March 20. ↩
- Bobby Valentine was a manager for the Chiba Lotte Marine baseball team. ↩
- Kantai Collection Shimakaze; coincidentally, also voiced by the same actor. ↩
- Kantai Collection ↩
- Sweatshops ↩
- Parody of the Idol Girls Only Swim Meet Tournament ↩
- JA-* is an agricultural association that sells rice using anime/manga characters to market their product. ↩
- H2 manga ↩
- Touken Ranbu – Nikkari Aoe’s name sounds similar to “smiling” in Japanese. ↩