Were we not born to play? Were we not born to frolic?1
That was stated in a paragraph in the “Ryoujin Hishou”2, but suppose that the very reason people were born was to play. If so, life was to play and everything in this world was to play.
Be that as it may, just what was it that “to play” was referring to?
“To play” was an expression with various meanings, its definition moreover vaguely phrased, and it certainly wasn’t a matter of conduct.
For example, “hey, hey, miss, let’s go have some fun!” If this was used, then it made you think normalfags should go die. “You wanted to have fun with me, huh!?” If this was used instead, really, normalfags should go die.
Cooking with a playful mindset typically ended in disasters and whenever your attempts at something failed, “I was just playing around~” was enough of an excuse to keep things as they were.
In other words, there was absolutely nothing good about something like playing.
On the same note, if life’s purpose was to play around, since there was nothing good about playing, then there was nothing good about life itself.
But being able to easily imagine the lives of these people playing around becoming terrible; that’s the Ryoujin Hishou for you. The Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa didn’t go bald gracefully. It was that hardship that made his baldness. With him side by side next to Bruce Willis and Nicholas Cage, they should be proclaimed as “The Great Three Baldies of the World”.
Being bald was cool, being bald was a status; I felt that betting on the continued development of those values than on trying to grow out the strands of hair on your head had more possibilities.
So putting that aside, all in all, the phrase “to play” and what conduct it referred to was something that, by all means, should be questioned.
Just what would happen if all you did was play? It wasn’t complicated to build a disastrous future off of that.
But in accordance with history, “people who played around can change their job to a Sage at level 20.”
That’s why, well, you know… Maybe playing around just a little might not be so bad…
× × ×
Yuigahama’s birthday party started from a proposal, well not really, but from a chain of events.
Yuigahama and Yukinoshita. Then there was Totsuka who we met on the way and Komachi who was waiting at the meeting place. Furthermore was Zaimokuza who accompanied us due to our humane consideration and with me included, these members headed for karaoke and it was there that I laid my eyes upon something that I shouldn’t have.
It was a lone female teacher around thirty who was killing time alone at karaoke after being driven away from a party for marriage prospects. So you’re singing an Enka about all of that huh…
When that thirtyish female teacher singing the Enka of her party for marriage prospects spotted us, she let out a sorrowful voice and ran off.
The rainy season’s sultry air subsided in the evening with the refreshing wind that blew towards the ocean.
Riding along that wind was a heartbreaking wail that found its way to my ears.
“I want to get married…”
It was boundlessly simplistic and straightforward desire that echoed in the night city.
I had no idea whether it was the Doppler Effect or the PaRappa effect, or whatever effect, but her voice wouldn’t leave my ears at all, oddly enough. If anything, my eyes were getting moist and my heart was aching. What the heck was this? Was this some sort of mustard gas effect of the sort?
Apparently I wasn’t the only one suffering from the pains at my chest because everyone present gazed in the direction where Hiratsuka-sensei had disappeared off to.
Not a single word was spoken by anyone, but the most level-headed individual in the group, Totsuka, spoke up with a worried voice.
“Hi-Hiratsuka-sensei. She was crying when she ran off, do you think she’s, okay…?”
That’s Totsuka for you. He’s so kind. I really thought so. Somehow looking timid, the way he was glancing in the direction of the corner where Hiratsuka-sensei turned was super kind (primarily in my eyes).
Conversely, the voice that answered was harsh and cold.
“She’s already a fine adult, so she should be fine.”
After Yukinoshita lightly flicked her hair away, she said in a calm demeanor. If only this girl stayed quiet, then she’d look kind to me too… But she wasn’t wrong in the least. In fact, she was too correct. I found myself agreeing with her opinion.
“Pretty much. Then again, she’s too much of a fine adult already, what with her age and all.”
I mean really, she’s a fine adult, so someone please take her already.
“Fumuu, those courageous words that laugh at danger3… The hymns of humans are the hymns of courage!”
With a quivering expression, the nearby Zaimnokuza wiped the sweat off his brow and then blurted out loud, being even more annoying and oppressive than before.
“Well, putting that aside, the birthday party sure was fun.”
The one who subtly sidestepped that solemn voice was Komachi. As expected of the Hikigaya household’s final weapon of communication. Zaimokuza whom everyone was hesitant in interacting with was smoothly pushed to the side.
After that, a smile floated on Yuigahama’s face, she too being the owner of the worrisome communication skill.
“Thanks a lot for today, Komachi-chan, everyone.”
Komachi returned a smile to Yuigahama’s and Yukinoshita who was watching over them quietly looked relieved. Well, Yukinoshita was being considerate in a lot of ways too.
A look of appreciation, or so I’d like to send her, but it looked like it would’ve made her once in a blue moon good mood to go sour, so I kept it to myself.
If Yuigahama was pleased with everything, then this was good enough.
And besides, it’s not like the time we spent was boring at all for me or anything.
“It was so fun that we ended up forgetting about the time, huh?”
In light of Totsuka’s words, Zaimokuza and I adjusted our eyes to our watches.
“Indeed, as you say, it is already this late. The time for darkness will soon befall us…”
For some reason, Zaimokuza leering distantly towards the faraway sun that was setting in the west sky dyed in crimson, but were I to accompany him in doing this, the sun really would settle, so I nonchalantly ignored him.
“I guess. Anyway, I’m heading home. See you.”
“Ah, okay. See you later.”
Yuigahama saw me off as she reservedly waved her hands. When I raised my hand slightly in response, at the corner of my eyes creeping up to Yuigahama with something in mind was Komachi.
Yuigahama let out a bewildered “hoe!?” to Komachi’s sudden appearance and Komachi talked in a small voice. What was she planning on doing…? With an unsettling premonition tugging at me, I slowly walked on, but every bit of Komachi’s words reached my ears.
“Are you okay with us going home like this…? This may not mean much coming from me as his little sister, but my brother going outside at all is SR, in other words, super rare… The next time he’ll go outside is… Glance.”
Komachi looked at me as she spoke unnaturally. After that, the speed of Yuigahama’s waving hands slowed as if she was in the middle of thinking. And then, her hands abruptly stopped.
“Next time, next time… Wait up. Wait uuup!”
Yuigahama chased after me with the tapping sounds of footsteps.
“L-Let’s hang out a bit more!”
“Eeeh—, I have a pretty strict curfew though.”
Get invited, refuse for now. This was a loner’s act of preserving equilibrium and also a loner’s instinct to be evasive. I mean, see, if I answered “I’ll go” and it turned out that it was just lip service on their side, wouldn’t you feel apologetic if it turned into something like a middle school reunion where they’d have a bitter laugh and answer “ah, so you’re going…”? Responding to that consideration with your own form of consideration was what they called the courtesy of an adult.
But it looked like Yuigahama didn’t say it as a form of lip service and needing to confirm the validity of my words, she spoke to Komachi.
“Is that true, Komachi-chan?”
“Not at all? We don’t have something like that at home though?”
Komachi shook her head to the question she was asked. Well, our household had a hands-off policy after all. Then again, both of our parents were busy so they wouldn’t be home around this time anyway.
When Komachi answered, a small sigh could be heard.
“Making up a lie that would immediately be exposed in front of your little sister, I’m not sure if you’re simplistic, brave, or something else… To be invited by people happens very rarely for you, so why don’t you gratefully take up the offer?”
Yukinoshita stated with a mix of astonishment, but who in their right mind would go after being told that…? Just how bad were you at inviting others?
“Well, I mean, we have a cat and all. I need to get back and take care of him.”
A poor invitation should be given a poor rejection.
When I answered, Yukinoshita abruptly went still. She then hesitated for just a speck of a moment.
A cat’s “meooow” voice could be heard. It either came from the corner of my brain, or possibly Yukinoshita’s.
And then, Yukinoshita nodded her head.
“I see. If it’s for your cat, then there’s nothing we can do.”
“She’s convinced!? I-If you’re talking about your cat, then he should be okay! L-Like, you know how they say pets resemble their owners and stuff, so he should be okay by himself!”
“Hey, that’s one word too much.”
She most certainly wasn’t wrong though since Komachi and I had the character traits of wanting to be left alone than being perfectly fine by ourselves, but it sounded more like she was saying we were completely unfit for society or failure as human beings.
But even if I brought it up, Yuigahama wouldn’t listen at all. If anything, she would look at me with murky eyes while pulling at Yukinoshita’s sleeve.
“C’mooon, let’s just hang out a bit mooore! I mean, everyone’s going too.”
“Just when did you decide everyone was going…? Hey, does that include me too?”
Yukinoshita raised an objection to the plans that were arbitrarily made and Yuigahama puffed her chest out as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
When Yuigahama asserted strongly, Yukinoshita blinked and slowly averted her face.
Yuigahama peered into Yukinoshita’s face worriedly, seemingly confused at Yukinoshita’s reaction, having responded in a small, fragmented voice.
“…Maybe, you don’t want to?”
“No… It was just, a little surprising.”
Yukinoshita gently lifted her head and slightly shook her head. Her smooth, charming black hair fluttered lightly, hiding her cheeks that were flushed red.
However, to Yuigahama who was directly in front of her, it probably didn’t hide anything. As if Yuigahama was charmed by Yukinoshita’s behavior, she let out a slight breath.
…Aah, this was totally Yukinoshita-san giving in. The girlish, lover scenery was so bright that I wasn’t sure how many colored mosaics there were.
And then, the yuri-yuri atmosphere flew into A Single Yuri4.
“Then, then, that means Yukino-san’s OK to go, right!? If so, that gets a lot of Komachi points!”
In contrast to Komachi who asked her with vigor, Yukinoshita replied with a calm tone.
“Yes. When it comes to Yuigahama-san, there’s no telling how fussy she’d be if I refused. I’ll be accompanying you.”
“Yay! Hikki too, let’s hang out!”
Having gained the ally called Yukinoshita, Yuigahama exploded with energy.
Furthermore, reinfrocements came from an unexpected source.
“That’s right, Hachiman. Prepare your resolve! If Hachiman gooooooes, I tooooo shall go!!”
“You like me way too much…”
I was subjected to Zaimokuza’s irritating love call. Like, recently he’s been acting so chummy with me that it’s scary. That is, the fact that I just might end up acknowledging his existence.
But I, too, was a man. I had my pride. I had my dignity. I had my beliefs.
Taking back the words I had already said was something I couldn’t do. To a man, there were no second words. If it’s something I didn’t want to do, then I wouldn’t do it. Even during the times where I said I’d do it, depending on what it was, I wouldn’t do it either.
It’d be a problem if they overestimated me. If it’s to make my life easier, then I would pull all the stops to make it happen. Therefore, I will at least try to make my case to Yuigahama.
“Look here, Yuigahama. In the first place, what exactly are we supposed to do when you say ‘hang out’? If you don’t live your life with goals in mind, your life will end before you know it. Are you okay with that?”
“He started lecturing for some reason…”
Yuigahama looked a bit sulky, but I’d prefer it that you be glad that a punch wasn’t added in the lecture. But once I saw her fed up expression, it looked like I was able to confuse her.
Just when I thought I was in the clear, Yukinoshita placed her hand on her chin and lightly tilted her head.
“…But that’s certainly true. Now that you mention it, the words “hang out” don’t specifically refer to anything.”
Yukinoshita’s murmur meant for herself was heard by Komachi who erected her index finger, looked up at the empty sky, and thought.
“Mmm, when you say ‘hang out’, I think of like hide and seek and tag. And then, if it’s innocent, the Komachi points…”
“Points this, points that, shut your trap already. Are you the clerk manning a register at a convenience store or something? I didn’t bring a card with me, damn it.”
As they told you that, you’d start feeling guilty because you didn’t bring a card with you. Not to mention, even if you said “ah, no thanks” as a final closing remark, they’d ask “should I create a card for you?” very nicely to you in which you’d respond with “ah, no thanks”. What the heck was the “ah” about? Was there some sort of rule where you had to include English words at the beginning of your sentences or something?
And as I was submerged in useless thoughts like that,
“There’s also color tag, freeze tag, king of the hill tag… Um, others are…”
Totsuka tried his best as he folded his fingers while blurting out whatever came to mind. It looked like he was trying to derive the answer to the question “what exactly does it mean to hang out?” by bringing up examples. By identifying a commonality of the brought up examples, you would derive the truth. It was truly a wonderful method. The way his mouth would open as he thought was truly innocent and wonderful. That’s why I decided to lend him a hand.
“There’re also cops and robbers and robbers and cops.”
“Aren’t those two the same thing?”
The moment I said something, Yuigahama opened her mouth and asked curiously. What’s with her? Why was she stupidly opening her mouth like that for? Close it or I’ll throw some trash in there.
When I scrutinized her with my rotten eyes, Yukinoshita patted Yuigahama’s shoulders.
“Yuigahama-san. Hikigaya-kun doesn’t have much experience going out to have fun, so there isn’t much of a variation for him. Please be understanding.”
Upon realizing after being told, Yuigahama said sorry looking apologetic.
“Ah, I-I see… Sorry.”
“Stop being so serious when you’re apologizing. I was this close to actually having to confrot my past, darn it.”
Also, Yukinoshita, it may have looked like you were trying to change the mood in consideration of me, but that wasn’t the case at all, okay? Why were you making that sweet smile while saying that, huh?
“But onii-chan, you didn’t go out all that much, right?”
“Shaddup, I’m a boy of today. I’m living for the future!”
Jumping into the conversation at the earliest opportunity, Komachi nonchalantly brought up the things regarding my rosy handsome youth. Well, it was more like wicked eye than rosy.
And then, Yukinoshita made an enthusiastic, cheerful kind of smile and spoke sounding convinced.
“Participating in outdoor physical activities isn’t something you can do unless you’re with someone else. Aah, so that’s why you’re called Hikki. That name indicates how in shape you are. It’s rather accurate.”
How sweet. It was as sweet as MAX COFFEE. What the heck, that’s like super sweet. Well, if it’s that sweet, then I could settle for Saizeriya’s gelato. Then again, what the heck was happening to MAX COFFEE if it was sweeter than actual sweets?
“Ha, don’t look down on loners. We can easily engage in physical activities alone.”
“Yep, yep, onii-chan would always box with the wires of the lights or use socks to shoot three pointers into the laundry basket right!”
Excuse me? Komachi-chan? Why would you expose that? Look, Yukinoshita-san was starting to look sad now, you know?
“So you’re doing it in the progressive tense, huh…? Are you an idiot…?”
“When I get into it, it starts getting fun, so what can I do?”
In fact, it gradually became more fun and fun. My most recent interest was pitching socks. When I imagined the situation where I would pitch in the ninth inning of the game as the closer, magnificently holding down the other team, it’s very fun. By the way, the finishing pitch was a knuckle ball.
Just when I figured I’d give them a detailed explanation, after imagining what kind of reactions they’d give afterwards, I decided against it. Even my one and only little sister, Komachi, didn’t look like she would bother paying attention to me and moved the conversation along.
“Okay, so let’s just say what we do from here will end up becoming fun… Onii-chan, let’s go!”
It felt like I was cunningly pulled along somehow. Though I was still reluctant, Totsuka tip toed next to me.
“Um, I was thinking of going too… I’ll be really happy if Hachiman goes too.”
“So, where are we going? What should we do? Let’s play as hard as we can without breaking the law!”
What the heck! You should’ve said so earlier! It’s getting really fun all of a sudden now!
“Fumuu. The quickness of that change. Truly a super rapid transformation… It’s hopelessly cool!”
As I was roaring to go, Zaimokuza shot me a thumbs-up. I was close to doing it myself as well, but thanks to seeing Zaimokuza’s appearance, I managed to stop myself. Thanks, Zaimokuza.
“That kind of bugs me… Anyway, I guess we’re set then!”
At first, after watching the exchange that occurred between Totsuka and me, Yuigahama didn’t have a completely satisfied expression, but after a nod, she cheerfully clapped her hands.
On the other hand, Yukinoshita went “hm” and tilted her head.
“But what exactly are we supposed to when we ‘hang out’? Playing hide and seek at our age really is questionable…”
“It’s not that complicated… The normalfags are always playing house in class after all.”
In fact, there were those who played house where they would engage in exchanges that had expectations of the roles that were decided for every individual. If they were interacting unaware of anything, then the person was probably happy, but those who became conscious of the template conversations and everyday life were pitiful. That’s because they had to hold on to the awareness of that fact for their entire life. While only those who became aware of that feeling could sympathize with each other, it was that fact itself that didn’t allow them to coexist with each other.
In the same way, Yukinoshita likely understood this as well and made a sudden chuckle.
“Oh, it’s a bit unusual to hear that coming from you. As you’d expect from the man who’s always playing hide and seek in class, you see things differently.”
“Pretty much. I’ve been super good at it since a long time ago, hide and seek that is. Even in elementary school, whenever I was hiding, everyone ended up going home at some point.”
“What a sad skill…”
Yukinoshita placed her hand on her temple and let out an astounded sigh. See, look, there’s no way we could coexist. But Yuigahama was something else.
“But Hikki, it’s not like you’re hidden at all or anything in class. Rather, your bad eyes totally stand out.”
“Everyone’s totally a demon around here, really…”
Those given the role of demon wouldn’t ever look for me… Hachiman, you knew, didn’t you? That everyone in class 2-F were all chummy with each other! Except for you.
“I-It’s okay, Hachiman. This time I’m here. Anyway, let’s decide where to go. Okay?”
Hachiman, spoootted! So claimed the angel, but, ah, ah, totally got that wrong. Totsuka said it. He was just too pure hearted that I was close to ascending to Nirvana…
“Fumu, if there is not anything that comes to mind, then the arcade may suffice. It is one of my super recommended recommendations.”
While I was dumbfounded, it felt like someone with a particularly loud voice was saying something, but like Totsuka said, we had better decide where to go.
“So, what should we do?”
“Ha! The arcade! There was that too! Here! Komachi agrees with the arcade!”
When I asked again, Komachi who was thinking of something shot her hand up as if she had come up with something.
“That might be good, it’s pretty close to here too. I went last time with Hachiman, but we didn’t get to play that many games.”
“Alright, if Totsuka says so, then the arcade it is. Objections won’t be accepted.”
I agreed with Totsuka who agreed with Komachi. Yukinoshita and Yuigahama didn’t particularly have any objections as they nodded their heads.
“Huuuh~? That’s weird though~? Didn’t I say that just now~?”
Only one person in the back moaned, but as we pushed him going “yeah, yeah”, we began moving to the nearby arcade.
Alright, the arcade with Totsuka! It’d be nice if we could get a two-shot photo together!
× × ×
To high school students, it’s a space they were familiar with. Due to the large racket inside, the voices of the merry-go-lucky couples and group of friends wouldn’t bother you. By being able to be one with crowd, you could feel isolated, allowing you to keep your heart at peace. It was because of that noisiness that anyone could become a part of the space, where even guys like me could feel at ease.
“What a noisy place… What exactly are we supposed to do here?”
Yukinoshita looked around restlessly as if she wasn’t familiar with being here. As I recall, the arcade at the place we went to last time, Lalaport5, was geared more towards families, with a lighter emphasis on amusement than pop, so coming to an arcade like this submerged in explosive sounds and smoke was probably her first time.
“For the time being, let’s take a look around.”
There wasn’t any point if we just stood around at the arcade. I suggested to the others and we decided to walk around the area for the time being. When we made our leisurely rounds, Yuigahama noticed something and pointed at it.
“Ah, that looks kind of fun.”
“Oh, that might be nice!”
I looked at what Komachi and Yuigahama were pointing at and,
“Fumu, Mahjong Fight Club6, huh?”
“Huh, through online play, you can compete throughout the country.”
In the games nowadays, you primarily did everything online. It’d be nice if they could be more considerate of those who were friendless and wanted to collect things or those who ran away to the forest and still didn’t have a place to go.
“What should we do? Komachi-chan, do you want to try playing Mahjong?”
“Let’s do it! In the national tournament mode, I’ll play with Yui-san!”
“Don’t play. You guys seem like you’d be super strong too, so stop it.”
Also, Yukinoshita’s older sister, Haruno-san, seemed like she’d be loved by the tiles7 while Kawasomething-san seemed like she’d be absurdly strong in dealing her tiles. It’s like everyone was really strong or something…
Ignorant of my thoughts on the matter, Yukinoshita gazed at the Mahjong game cabinet from afar and muttered.
“Is Mahjong something women play? It doesn’t really give off that kind of image.”
“I guess so. It does feel like something guys would play. It’s manly that it’s kind of cool…”
Just as Totsuka said, seeing guys playing Mahjong was probably easier to imagine. So something like the nights of field trips, you’d see set up tables in the boys’ rooms.
Similarly, I would play Mahjong as well for the most part. Or so I say, but I only knew at best the scoring hands and if I had to calculate the points, then I wasn’t really sure how that worked and to top that off, there wasn’t anyone who would play with me. But since the CPU existed, then that wasn’t a problem at all.
Oh, it looked like my gaze had found its way over towards a cabinet I was very intimate with. That gaze was dutifully spotted by Komachi who made a cat-like smile.
“Ah, the Mahjong game that onii-chan usually plays was that one, right? The one where clothes are taken off when you win.”
“Hey, idiot, stop. Don’t blurt that out in a place like this. Totsuka might hear, damn it!”
Don’t go spreading negative assessments of your onii-chan playing morbid-like games, okay?
With this, Totsuka would end up hating me and with slightly red cheeks, he’d go “I-I guess you can’t help it, huh? H-Hachiman’s a guy and all…” What the heck was I supposed to do if he said that with a blushing face? I’d either feel like dying, or possibly, end up having my eyes opened to the vulgar ecstasy of imagining a cute girl who believed in cabbage fields and Oriental storks being thrown into an uncensored porno8.
But luck was on my side as Totsuka didn’t seem to have overheard. After feeling slightly relieved, Yukinoshita’s icy voice pierced me from behind as if freezing water was poured on my back.
“…Be a little considerate of us too.”
She was either angry or disgusted as she sent a glancing glare at me. You’re scary. Because she was scary, I averted my gaze from Yukinoshita and what I saw instead was Yuigahama motioning her hands to come over.
“Ah, but look, look. It looks like something women would play too, see… And, huh…?”
Pulled by Yuigahama, I looked in her direction as well and a familiar looking back emanating with grief was there.
“Oh, I’m getting good tiles today. I sure am loved by the Mahjong tiles. Juuust why don’t guys love me, huuuh? Oh, that’s Pon, Kan, Shin9, just kidding, hahaha, haaa…”
The smoke that escaped along with her deep sigh was covering her face, but there was no mistake about that appearance.
“It’s. Hira. Tsuka. Sensei…”
Yuigahama shuddered as she uttered the name in a way to ascertain it.
It looked like when Hiratsuka-sensei ran away from us earlier and was at a lost as to where to go, she arrived at this arcade, playing Mahjong while sulking. Zaimokuza placed his hand on his chest and straightened his clothes as if he was mourning while Totsuka averted his eyes away in sorrow.
Contrary to the lively space, it was turning to an atmosphere abundant with sadness.
Uuugh, I really don’t want to talk to her.
As I worried about whether to just ignore her or call out to her, Yukinoshita pushed me from behind.
“Look, that’s your homeroom teacher, right?”
“Don’t push me. Also, stop trying to force me to do it, okay?”
Just when was that decided, huh? Once you started taking care of, she’s likely to ramble on and on, so I really didn’t want to do that, you know?
While having that exchange, I could hear some sort of mumbling from behind me.
“A single, heartbroken female teacher… Hah! That could work! As far as Komachi’s concerned, that’s a possibility! It’s better to have more candidates anyway…”
When I turned around, Komachi was calculating something as she bent her fingers. And once she arrived at a conclusion, she shot her hands up and walked forward.
“Leave this to Komachi!”
The instant she said that, Komachi dashed towards Hiratsuka-sensei.
“She ran off with a huge smile on her face.”
Just like Yukinoshita said, Komachi had a “nehehe” kind of grin on her face. That was a rather familiar looking smile.
“Nothing good ever happens when she has that kind of smile…”
“Aah, I kind of get that…”
Yuigahama made a wry smile. I’m sorry that my little sister was always such a bother.
“Right…? Well, that’s what makes her cutely cute though.”
“There he goes, siscon…”
Yuigahama said so in shock. But that’s wrong. It’s not that I was being a siscon, I was just showing my love for her.
And that beloved little sister of mine snuck up behind Hiratsuka-sensei and put all she could into making her voice energetic when she called out to her.
“Mm? W-Whoa, Hikigaya’s little sister… W-What’s the matter?”
Hiratsuka-sensei threw herself back nosily rattling the stool since she thought no one would call out to her. The lines of her prettily arced back made me imagine her slender spine. This was completely irrelevant, but her bent back was very erotic.
For the brother that knew nothing beside his little sister in his heart, the opposite being true just as well, Komachi rapidly spoke to Hiratsuka-sensei with her hand drawing close to her.
“No, no, that’s the thing. By coincidence, Komachi and the others came here to play, so by all means please come with us or something, or rather, my brother needs someone to watch over him or something.”
“Fu, Fumu. I-Is that so…? Then shall l take you up on your offer?”
Hiratsuka-sensei gave her consent, getting pulled along by Komachi. Yukinoshita who watched their exchange from afar let out a small sigh.
“It looks like they’re done talking.”
“Okay, starting from the top, let’s all go and have some fun!”
When she said that, Yuigahama ran to where Hiratsuka-sensei and Komachi were. Following her was Totsuka who jogged over while Zaimokuza advanced forward in loud steps. Both Yukinoshita and I who were left behind looked at each other, let out a brief sigh, and obediently went along.
× × ×
We took an unplanned look around the arcade.
The display with a high brightness in the dim interior was vivid to the eyes and the loud BGM entangled with character voices would sometimes reach my ears.
And amongst the noise was a remarkably resounding fanfare.
“Oh, how about this!? Experience Horse Racing, Shining Star Horse10!”
And then Zaimokuza undauntedly screamed out. It might have been because of that shriek too that I spoke with a cringing voice.
“Horse racing game, huh…?”
“Oh, you don’t seem interested. Useless men are supposedly fond of gambling though?”
Hiratsuka-sensei said so in surprise.
“I already decided that I wouldn’t gamble. Also, I’m not a useless man…”
My grades were good normally and even my in-class behavior was quiet and diligent, you know? Well, it’s not like I had anyone to talk to in class anyway. Because of that, English group discussions were totally bad. What’s bad? The people who sat next to me would go straight to fiddling with their cellphones without question; it was that bad. I mean, they could confirm with me first! At least say something like “it’s not like we need to do anything, right?” No, that’s bad too. Saying only bad made it sound like my Japanese was worse off than my English.
I was starting to feel more like a useless human being than a useless man. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought that because Yukinoshita made an abrupt smile as if making a fool out of me.
“In your case, the way you live your life is a gamble. The odds are quite high.”
“Don’t turn a person’s life into low percentages. Being a full-time house husband is super stable.”
“That’s a super gamble…”
Yuigahama uttered an honest impression with a shivering expression.
That’s not it, really… It’s just I haven’t met my destined one yet…
Yeah, I wasn’t at fault. Destiny was.
“In that case, how about something like that then?”
Huh? Was it my destined person? Or so I thought, but it was Totsuka. What Totsuka was pointing at was a medal game cabinet. Um, the one where you insert a medal ball and it drops down. It wasn’t like those medal games where a medal would come out if you won at rock-paper-scissors, but like those games where medal drop down called Pusher or something.
It’s a rather intuitive game so there shouldn’t be too many issues with figuring out how to play it. It’s also something couples play quite often.
To put it the other way around, it was also a game that was light in the needs of the customers.
For that reason, Zaimokuza made a “kepukon” cough and triumphantly opened his mouth.
“Fumu. A medal game, huh? Too naïve, too naïve! Someone of my caliber would not find enjoyment in the musings of children like this!”
“So in other words, it’s a game where you insert a medal and the stored medals drop. A rather simple game, isn’t it?”
The way Yukinoshita spoke sounded like she was interested, seemingly having an image of the game being played by children.
“Now, now, everyone should at least give it a try. While it may be simple, it can surprisingly get you addicted.”
Listening to those two, Hiratsuka-sensei made a bitter smile and said so to mediate.
Well, something like this was something you had to try once.
× × ×
The interior of the store was enveloped by a lightly played BGM track and as if drowning that out were the explosive sounds coming from the cabinets. I could hear from afar the merry voices of the young people.
And in front of me was the sounding of medals trickling down coming from the medal game cabinets.
The noisy sounds could be heard from all around me, but comparatively, you were given the impression that it was rather quiet in comparison which may have been because no one had opened their mouth.
The talkative Zaimokuza and also Yukinoshita were dead silent when I noticed. Despite that, their eyes continued to move, their fingers already poised for the timing to insert the medals.
“Ah, aah, so close. Grrr~, why didn’t they drop just noooow?”
Um, you’re being way too serious, you know… Yuigahama looked a little awkward so didn’t you feel sorry for her?
And then, there was another pitiful person.
“…Fumu. Don’t look down on the power of the wicked eye… I see it! Ah, aaafun… It missed… Ngh, an afterimage, huh…?”
“You couldn’t see a damn thing…”
It was more like his head was pitiful in this case. Didn’t you just claim that this was just musings of children? You’re totally having a blast right now.
But Zaimokuza wasn’t the only one who was having fun.
“…Tch, to think I’d let the jackpot slip by, what a blunder on my part…”
It looked like Yukinoshita was the type to be rather enthusiastic once she was involved in a game because this time as well, she was making a fist with a fiery concentration that seemed capable of anything. In fact, it looked like she caught on to the game really fast because medals were just spilling out too…
“E-Everyone’s pretty into it, huh…? Yukinoshita-san remembered the rules at some point too.”
“Somehow the mood’s gotten really bloodthirsty…”
Totsuka and Komachi who were playing wholesomely stopped their hands temporarily and backed away as they were watching. But Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were engrossed in the game and continued without noticing.
“Ah, Yukinon, I’m going to borrow a medal, okay~?”
The hand that Yuigahama stretched out was grabbed by Yukinoshita.
“Wait just a moment. Do you have a plan to get them back? For a while now, you’ve been just inserting the medals without thinking about anything.”
When Yukinoshita pointed it out, Yuigahama froze. Certainly, she was spending the medals like water for a while now. She was the type that shouldn’t be allowed to gamble. As if having the same opinion, Yukinoshita raised her index finger and lectured Yuigahama in earnest.
“In the first place, Yuigahama-san, your ability to think about the future is rather lacking since a long time ago…”
One word and Yuigahama’s body shrunk back. Since Yukinoshita had a sound argument, no one could really help her out here.
“Komachi, gimme a medal.”
“Not even looking like he wants to borrow them, that’s my onii-chan…”
Komachi’s expression became a look of realization instead of a look of astonishment. What? It’s not like I was going to give them back anyway, so the expression “I’ll take them” was more correct. I was just being honest.
As I was attempting to send a sibling-only non-verbal communicative method through a stare to Komachi, a voice called out to me from a cabinet nearby.
“Hikigaya, would you like to use these?”
Hiratsuka-sensei held out medals that bounced off each other. “Waaaai, lucky!” Just as I was about to extend out my hands, Komachi slapped them.
Oh, c’mon, Hiratsuka-sensei said it was okay…. When I looked at her in discontent, Komachi raised her finger going “no!”
She then turned to Hiratsuka-sensei.
“Aah, could you not spoil my brother too much? You’ll only make him a useless man even faster. If he becomes financially dependent in the future, the ones who will suffer will be Komachi and also his wife. As far as Komachi is concerned, I want my brother to have a respectable happy life.”
“I-I see…… W-What a deep thing to say for a middle school student…”
You got that right, what a deep thing to say for a middle school student. How the heck did you become so amazing? Was there a useless person in the family or something? By all means, please thank the bad model of a teacher.
× × ×
Whether it was because we didn’t have all that much at the beginning or that our earnings were shared between everyone, we went empty on medals surprisingly quickly.
“Now then, what should we do next?” With nothing to do, Komachi was trying to decide and opened her mouth after looking at everyone.
“Okay, we’re all out of medals and we’re also low on time, so let’s move on to the last game.”
“Last game? What are you planning to do?”
We were still going to do something more? I totally thought we were going to go straight home. Komachi took the stares that wondered what exactly we were going to do and she declared in a bodacious voice.
“All-About Chiba Prefecture Ultra Quiz~!”
While everyone else had a dumbfounded face, only Komachi herself turned towards the cabinet behind her as she added “bam, bam, puff, puff”.
“So with that being said, we’ll be holding a contest that tests your knowledge of Chiba with this game here, QUIZ MAGIC CHIBADEMY11.”
“QUIZ MAGIC CHIBADEMY, it’s time to get started~!”
Suddenly a clone of the quiz games I usually played appeared… Were there other places beside Chiba that requested for this? In fact, it was already suspicious enough that Chiba did.
When Komachi inserted her coins into the machine, the machine made “br-r-r-ring” noises and looked like it was going to start up. It seemingly had already decided on what we were going to do, not requiring any input.
“Now then, sensei. Please be the quizzer and the judge.”
“Umu, very well.”
Hiratsuka-sensei gladly took up the request from Komachi.
She started up the QUIZ MAGIC CHIBADEMY and steadily filled up the system screen, but there was a problem.
“But this is one of those games, isn’t it? Fundamentally, it’s a game you play by yourself, right? Designed just for me, right?”
When I asked, Komachi went “fufuun” as she laughed.
“That’s why we’ll be competing in teams. We’ll break up into teams and answer as we see fit. The rules are… Well, like, please read the mood as we go along.”
“Komachi-san’s explanation suddenly gotten lazy, didn’t it…?”
Yukinoshita spoke while placing her hands on her temple. Seriously. Read the mood as we go along, what the heck was that? Japan’s common day to day life?
Well, there only being two cabinets, all we could do was just form teams, make some mental compromises, and go at it.
“How should we split up the teams?”
When Totsuka asked while fidgeting, Yuigahama slowly raised her hand, her hesitation making her look suspicious.
“Ah, if it’s a team battle, then I’ll go with Hi-Hikki… Um, for his Chiba knowledge…”
Well, a reasonable choice. When it came to knowing about Chiba, I was by far the most knowledgeable. The team I was placed in was pretty much set to win… As long we didn’t try to coordinate with each other, we should be okay.
Komachi shook her with a “no, no”, riding between being aware of what she was planning and not.
“Let’s break up the teams into boys and girls.”
Fumu, that made a lot of sense. So that meant my team would consist of myself, Zaimokuza, and… Totsuka? It’s okay for Totsuka to be in this team, right?
I was close to being absorbed in serious thought out of habit, but once I caught a glimpse of Totsuka’s cheerful smile, I stopped caring.
“We’re on the same team then, huh, Hachiman?”
“Yeah, let’s give it our all, Totsuka.”
Alright, let’s try our best!
On one hand, I was overflowing with motivation and on the other was an audible, depressed voice coming from the corner of my vision.
Komachi snuck up to the discontent Yuigahama.
“Yui-san, I have something in mind.”
“T-There it is~. That planning, scary kind of smile…”
Komachi abruptly distanced herself from Yuigahama and turned in our direction. All the while making a suspicious smile at the start.
“Fufufu… Now, let us begin! The losing team will be subjected to a penalty game!”
With a typical, poppy Komachi-like smile at the end, she proclaimed the start of the game.
× × ×
In the contest flowing with a unique feeling of tension, Hiratsuka-sensei stood at the front of the two cabinets. With both teams betting their pride and the penalty game on the All-About Chiba QUIZ MAGIC CHIBADEMY, the match was lit at this very moment.
And with my love for Chiba, I couldn’t be losing so easily.
Hiratsuka-sensei looked at us and let out a big breath. She then raised her voice.
“Do you want to go to the Kingdom of Ostriches12!?”
Komachi, Totsuka, and also Zaimokuza raised their hands overhead in excitement. On the other hand, feeling left behind, Yukinoshita and Yuigahama tilted their heads.
“What’s the Kingdom of Ostriches…?”
“Totally sounds like a place I wouldn’t want to go to…”
What, did these two not know about the Kingdom of Ostriches…?
“It’s pretty fun if you go. Ostrich sashimi’s really delicious.”
“So you can eat ostriches…”
Yuigahama was surprised with a look of disgust, but ostrich was known to have high protein and low calories. The light quality of the meat was quite delicious. The eggs had a rather rough taste.
As I thought over the matters relating to ostriches, the game had started without my knowledge. I could hear Hiratsuka-sensei’s voice reading the questions aloud.
“Question. Speaking of Chiba’s mascot,”
Before she was able to finish reading the question, on the same team was Zaimokuza who pressed the buzzer.
“Fumu, leave this to me.”
When Zaimokuza spoke brimming with confidence, he fluttered his coat, straightened it, and pointed at Hiratsuka-sensei.
“The rampaging red mad dog, CHI-BA+KUN13!”
What’s with that nickname…?
And then, along with Hiratsuka-sensei’s shaking head was the buzzing “too bad” SE. It looked like she was still in the middle of her question and she continued reading.
“CHI-BA+KUN, that is…”
“Nng, a trap!”
Zaimokuza hit the buzzer in frustration. Yeah right, it was just common sense, not a trap. In quizzes, there were key points to the questions. That’s what they said in Nanamaru Sanbatsu14.
When I glared at him, Zaimokuza stuck out his tongue and bonked his head.
“Tehe pero ☆”
“Tch, you really piss me off…”
When I transmitted my murderous intent to Zaimokuza, Hiratsuka-sensei, disgruntled from our exchange, tried to continue on.
“I’m reading the rest of the question. Speaking of Chiba’s mascot, the mascot CHI-BA+KUN, that is, what is that CHI-BA+KUN’s color?”
This time, the key point of the problem was read. And this was where I would press the button. But I was unable to cover the distance to touch the buzzer and Komachi took the right to answer.
“All mine! The answer is red~!”
When she answered correctly, the lights glittered. Komachi was dancing with twirls and spins under those lights. Well, that was a simple question that was way too easy so… Let’s just think of it as a warmup.
When Komachi and Yuigahama went “yaaay!” with a high five, Yukinoshita muttered curiously.
“…Why is CHI-BA+KUN red, I wonder?”
“W-Who knows… Even I don’t know that much…”
I wonder why, huh? I was sure there wasn’t anything associated with red in Chiba though… Surely the reason wasn’t because people’s bodies radiated colors of red from overflowing motivation…
Indulged in my own thoughts, Hiratsuka-sensei spoke up.
“Do you mind if I move on to the next question? Question. Located in Chiba, the very first manmade beach in Japan is!?”
Oh, now this was a rather difficult one. No one could reach out to the buzzer. But at that moment, Totsuka reached out to the buzzer with a contemplating face.
“U-Um… Ku-Kujuuukuri Beach?”
And then the incorrect answer buzzing SE sounded out.
Totsuka became depressed and clapped his hands together apologetically to me.
“Nice guts, my little firefighter-kun. We won’t get anything like the correct answer if we don’t speak up. It’s all good, don’t let it bug you, don’t mind!”
I thought I could embrace at least one of his shoulders in the midst of the confusion but a shadow abruptly got in between us.
“Ha-Hachiman!? I-I as well! I tried my best too, you know!”
Why the hell was this guy using cute appeals with me lately? Were you expecting a Saint Bernard kind of demand or something? You sounded more like a tosa dog though.
“Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Leave the rest to me.”
I quickly dealt with Zaimokuza and I turned towards the cabinet. To wipe away Totsuka’s guilt from committing a mistake meant that I had to correctly answer this question.
I sharply eyed the buzzer and then pressed it with absolute confidence.
When the “ding, dong” SE went off, Hiratsuka-sensei made a grin.
“Fumu, Hikigaya. Your answer.”
“The answer is… Inage Beach.”
My throat resounded with a gulp. Or it could’ve been from someone else there. It was a brief and momentary silence.
And then there was the chiming of the “ding dong, ding dong, ding dong” sound as if to conspicuously applaud the winner for answering correctly.
“Hmph, when it comes to Chiba, that’s about right.”
Although I was elated with success, just what was with this super enthusiast question? Had it not been someone like me proudly full of love for Chiba, no one would’ve been able to answer it.
Hiratsuka-sensei nodded her head and raised both of her hands, with one finger standing up on each.
“With this, both teams are head to head. Alright, let’s keep going!”
After Hiratsuka-sensei squeezed her hand into a fist, I found myself naturally getting into gear as well. I lightly placed my hand on the buzzer and readied myself for war.
“Question. Chiba’s local specialty is?”
“Question. Bousou Local Pastries is?”
“Question. Although it’s in Chiba?”
“Tokyo German Village16!”
“Question. A famous Chiba person is?”
In no time, I shot out a stream of answers in speedy fashion. After the defeats from earlier, the stream of correct answers also got everyone excited.
“Hachiman, you’re awesome!”
“Indeed. Hachiman, you are number one.”
Totsuka clapped his hands and directed a smile at me while Zaimokuza triumphantly laughed and patted my shoulders. But it wasn’t like I was the amazing one.
“Nah. I’m not number one. Chiba’s number one, that’s all. Chiba’s 3rd place in Kanto though.”
Following Tokyo and Kanagawa was the immovable third position, Chiba. You might as well consider it as the third of the entire country. Even the name Makuhari New City was like that, so Chiba might as well be called a capital.
As opposed to the boy team, frolicking with the belief that their win was assured, the girl team were low in spirits. Even Komachi was gritting her teeth in frustration.
“Kuh, that’s my onii-chan, his love for Chiba is deep…”
“At this rate, we’re going to lose to Hikki’s team…”
The words that Yuigahama slipped out caused Yukinoshita who seemingly wasn’t interested in the competition to twitch reactively.
“Lose… Lose to Hikigaya-kun…”
When she voiced that displeasure, she opened her eyes and lightly reached out to the buzzer, burning with a serene, fighting spirit.
“Yu-Yukinon’s on fire…”
Yuigahama shivered from Yukinoshita’s oppressive spirit. Hiratsuka-sensei who was fond of that kind of development made a grin and continued to read the next question.
“Question. At Chiba’s decanter souvenir shop, the well-known”
It’s mine! Even if Yukinoshita decided to take this game seriously, when it came to Chiba, it was my field, it was my garden; in fact, it was my house. I may lose on the semester exams, but I had no reason to lose here. With absolute confidence, I pressed the buzzer to give an immediate response.
“Wet rice crackers!”
The instant I answered, Hiratsuka-sensei smiled abruptly.
“Wet rice crackers… But,”
I ended up tripping over my own feet out of reflex because of Yukinoshita’s influential ambition… Zaimokuza looked at me with an irritating expression going “hmph hmm”.
While breaking away from Zaimokuza’s stare, the question continued.
“What is the recommended way of eating these wet rice crackers!?”
“Who the heck would know that!?”
Yuigahama raised her voice in frustration going “grrr”, but there was someone who promptly hit the buzzer.
“Leave it to Komachi!”
Not good… I eat wet rice crackers with Komachi all the time so she’ll definitely get the right answer…
“The answer is… You toast it in an oven and eat it with shichimi and mayonnaise!”
When Komachi answered, Yuigahama’s face turned into a grimace and Yukinoshita made a frown.
“Sounds like a ton of calories…”
“Is it really okay to toast wet rice crackers…?”
It sure was, since they were delicious when toasted. Well, I probably couldn’t deny the calorie claim though.
And then came the ringing of the fanfare to the correct answer.
“It was even the right answer too…”
So said Yuigahama astonishingly, but you should at least give it a try as it’s rather good.
Feeling good after answering correctly, Komachi looked proud going “hmph”.
“When it comes to useless things regarding Chiba, please leave it to me. After all, I just end up remembering everything my brother says about Chiba since I’m the only one he can talk to!”
“Woow, weird siblings…”
Hey? Yuigahama-san? Weren’t you just being a little too upfront about your thoughts? It’s not a big deal, right? We’re getting along really well and all. Just when I thought I would object, Hiratsuka-sensei began to read the next question, not allowing me any room to do so.
“Question. The most hauled fish product throughout the country in the Chiba prefecture is?”
The instant the question was finished, the buzzer was pressed at lightning speed.
Yukinoshita answered with a posed look. What the heck was that just now? Because there was absolutely no delay there…
“Why the heck does Yukinon know!? Yukinon’s a little weird too!”
Yuigahama exclaimed, but it wasn’t something to be surprised about. The question just read was in reasonable bounds of academic geography and if you considered Yukinoshita’s father’s work, she probably knew a few things about Chiba.
That being said, that wasn’t something you’d know normally. Even Totsuka was impressed as he spoke.
“We’re in Chiba yet we can still catch spiny lobster. Hauled the most in the country too…”
“Right? We might as well change Chiba to Chiba Lobster instead.”
It’s called spiny lobster, yet Ise18 wasn’t holding the number one position. What’s that about? Was it similar to how Tokyo German village was in Chiba or something? I see, that made sense.
In any case, from the topic just now, it made it clear to me again how high Yukinoshita’s mysterious specs were.
“But still, not a big surprise at all. Yukipedia-san.”
“Could you stop calling me that?”
Yukinoshita brushed her hair resting against her shoulders away and stared at me with a piercing, cold look. Komachi tried to use that anger to her advantage.
“That’s right, onii-chan. You need to make sure to call her by Yukino.”
“Wha, that’s… I’m not doing that…… My life would be in danger if I did.”
It was scary so I said those last few words in a small voice. Because of my fear, my stare shifted away and as if responding to that, Yukinoshita gently averted her face.
“T-That’s right……… Even if you called me that, I’m not sure what I’d do.”
“Aaah, are you guys done?”
Yukinoshita’s words were drowned out by Hiratsuka-sensei’s sighing voice, so I wasn’t able to hear what she had said all the way to the end.
Hiratsuka-sensei cleared her throat with a cough and made a club holding gesture.
“…The last question is a Hammer Chance!”
For reasons unknown, Zaimokuza reacted to just that single word alone.
Completely ignoring that, Hiratsuka-sensei began to explain.
“For this last question, if you answer correctly using this Golden Hammer, you’ll earn 10,000 points.”
“Then what the heck was the point of the entire quiz then…? Now I look like an idiot for answering all those questions earlier. What’s this, epitome of life?”
You could pile up things one by one gradually, but that didn’t always mean you would succeed. Things like connections, relations, the whims of the big-wigs and estimates from the top were enough to overturn everything, turning everything to nothing.
Once again, I was enlightened to another truth of the world…
But it’s exactly because of that that I couldn’t lose. When it came to winning for my luxury, regardless of how scummy and crappy the rules were, the twisted laws that allowed anyone else except me to have a taste of that sweet nectar was something I would stand against.
As if we were kindred spirits, Zaimokuza faced me and clenched his fist.
“Hachiman, I will leave this to you. Use it, the Goldion Hammer!”
“R-Right… It’s Golden Hammer by the way.”
Was this really okay? Was this a good idea? Well, the so called “as long the problem didn’t become one, it wouldn’t become one” aspect existed too. Right now, that wasn’t the problem.
It was finally the last question. This long lasting battle would be at its end with this one question. Then again, this battle was going to end from just this question alone though? Was that really okay?
“Question. I asked 100 high school girls from Chiba. What is the standard dating spot?”
I waited patiently for the key points of the question and cautiously pressed the button.
There was no issue with my timing in pressing the buzzer. I flawlessly took the first step before everyone else. The phrase “victory goes to who strikes first” further solidified my victory.
What was left was to use as much of the allotted time as I could and derive the answer.
Purposely starting off with “from Chiba” meant that the living creatures called high school girls wouldn’t differ all that much from region to region. This wasn’t Pokemon, so it mostly certainly wasn’t the case that their allocation would be different from habitat to habitat.
Furthermore, high school girls were living creatures sensitive to the latest fads, so on a whole, they were always trying to get in with the things that were mainstream. Therefore, the restricting condition of “from Chiba” didn’t apply in this context.
In addition, the words “dating spot” made it obvious that the answers in this survey were just personal preferences given by the high school girls. So to speak, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that this survey was simply a gathering of love worshipping high school girls.
If I were to say more, the condition of “female high school girls” could be said to include the naivety and youth, and flipping that around, their purity and admiration towards adults.
From those given conditions, the answer I could derive was…
I can see it! The ending! But saying it out loud was a little embarrassing…
“…B-Boyfriend’s house or something?”
Buzz buzz. The SE rung mercilessly.
And the room suddenly became quiet.
Everyone looked at each other and at Komachi’s side, they began to talk about something.
“He gave a surprisingly, honest answer…”
Yuigahama murmured wanting to run away.
Hiratsuka-sensei asked me with a considerate voice.
“…Hikigaya, is that what you’re hoping for?”
“Oddly enough, for how realistic that delusion is, it’s also sad.”
Yukinoshita purposely gave me the final blow at the very end. It depended on the explanation, but beheading was a form of kindness too!
“Kuh, super embarassing… Kill me! Just kill me!”
As I saw despair in the world, Totsuka and Zaimokuza followed after me.
“I-It’s okay Hachiman. You gave it some thought and if I were a girl, I’d be really happy!”
“That’s right, Hachiman. I think about it quite often. It is nothing to be ashamed about.”
“I-I know, right? We’re boys and all. It’s not weird at all!”
Totsuka was too much an angel that I would love to have him visit my house next time. But Zaimokuza’s delusion was creepy though!
Then again, being categorized with Zaimokuza made me think “yeah, I’m me” as my feelings sank away. There, Komachi with a grinning smile tapped on my shoulders.
“Now, now, what’s the problem? Komachi’s at the house anyway, so that just now was very high in Komachi points.”
“Don’t comfort me. Don’t give me that look of pity. Don’t pile up the points either. You’re just making me feel worse.”
Besides, if Komachi’s at home, then I was pretty much on the true route already. She’d be my girlfriend and we’d have dates at home every day. What the heck, what Chiba anime was that?
Having been put to shame, my life was already beyond zero, it was Requiem Zero. But there was also something else taken away from me.
“Since it was the wrong answer, the Golden Hammer will be handed to the other team.”
The Golden Hammer was ruthlessly taken by the other team and the Hunter Chance19 was given to them. Well, common sense of the world dictated that missing your chance meant the end of you.
And then, the girl team had their attacking cha~nce20.
“Yuigahama-san, it’s in your hands.”
“Yui-san, go for it!”
Yukinoshita who wasn’t particularly suited for the question left it to Yuigahama who had a better probability of answering it while Komachi clenched her fist and cheered Yuigahama on.
With their feelings, Yuigahama nervously pressed the buzzer.
“Um… The answer is… Tokyo’s Destiny Land!”
And then, the SE indicating the correct answer went off as if praising the winners.
× × ×
In the arcade that returned to its liveliness, even being noisier, Komachi amusingly raised her voice.
“Time for the results~!”
No different from the very beginning, Komachi went “bam, bam, puff, puff” as she spoke, took a step forward, and gave way to Hiratsuka-sensei. After a single nod, Hiratsuka-sensei made a grin.
“The girl team wins with 10,003 points.”
“I’m not satisfied with this at all…”
But, well, complaining wouldn’t do me any good. No matter when or where, the world was cruel, even funny at times. The value of effort was inferior to the value of miracles.
That’s why the only thing the losers could do was praise the winners who managed to bring forth those miracles. That act alone allowed the winners, thanks to the losers, to justify the truth that resulted.
As we gave our round of applause, the girl team was overjoyed as they huddled together. They were probably deciding on the penalty game.
“Since we won because of Yui-san, Yui-san can ask for whatever she wants.”
“I suppose so. I believe that’s proper. I don’t have any complaints since we won and I don’t have anything in particular that I want to ask them for.”
When Komachi and Yukinoshita gave their decisive right away, Yuigahama got flustered. Well, it wasn’t very often she had to decide things for herself, so suddenly being pushed the role probably confused her.
“Eh, that’s so sudden though…”
Yuigaham groaned as she thought about various things and Komachi crept up to her.
“Yui-san, Yui-san. Can you lend me your ear?”
“Eh? What is it?”
Yuigahama faced Komachi and tilted her head.
“Whisper, whisper, whisper.”
“…Uh huh, uh huh, –eh, eeeh~, that’s kind of embarrassing…”
I didn’t know what Komachi was telling her, but Yuigahama turned red all the way to her ears. When they finished their talk and signaled, Hiratsuka-sensei turned towards us.
“Now then, it’s time to reveal the penalty game.”
After saying that, she glanced at Yuigahama and urged her on.
“Y-You see… Hikki.”
Her words then stopped abruptly. She took several deep breaths. She then controlled her breathing and looked at me with upturned eyes.
“…Let’s, go out and play again?”
If I had given it a number then it undoubtedly would’ve been at most a few centimeters. In words, then it’d be somewhere between “playing” and “leeway”.
This fragile feeling of distance acting as a buffer of the sort to guard against conflict and fatigue was suitable for how we were now. That’s why I was able to minutely take the middle ground and respond accordingly.
“…Well, I guess I’ll have to if that’s the penalty.”
Right, if that’s the penalty, then I had no say in the matter.
The defeated had to bear their sins as well as accept their punishment. So accompanying her one more time like how we did now should be fine.
When I answered, Yuigahama’s shoulders shook and she let out a sigh. She showed a smile as if a huge burden was taken off her shoulders and I found myself averting my eyes away in embarrassment as well.
Ahead of where I turned to was Komachi nodding her head up and down, somehow getting on my nerves.
What my little sister was thinking was clear as day, but that included her actual feelings on the matter so it was rather complicated being unable to get angry with her. As I scratched my head wondering what a situation to be in, coming from an unthinkable direction was a raised voice.
“Yeah, that might be nice! We should all hang out again!”
It was a soft tone that resembled an angel’s bra21 or even an angel’s wing.
Komachi’s face became dubious after the sudden audible voice.
When I turned around, Totsuka was coming up to me with a smiling face, completely indicating “I can’t wait!” Reflexively, I ended up replying without spontaneously voicing things like “yeah!”, “alright!”, and “yes, yes!”
“Eh? To-Totsuka-san? As far as Komachi’s concerned, that didn’t mean everyone but…”
Komachi attempted to get in between me and Totsuka in a panic, only to be obstructed by a large looming shadow.
“Fumu. I shall accompany you as well. A-Although I did say accompany, I just meant accompanying you as in hanging out, okay! D-Don’t misunderstand! Hachiman!”
“I won’t. There isn’t a single thing in what you said for that to ever happen.”
Again, what kind of appeal was that, damn Zaimokuza…? When I felt disgusted, that disgust seemed to have infected Yuigahama who smiled with a “fufu”.
“It’s like… Not what I was expecting, but since it’s fun, whatever.”
After she said that and turned around, Yuigahama smiled at Yukinoshita. Yukinoshita who understood the meaning behind the smile let out a small sigh and nodded lightly.
“I suppose. I’m not particularly too good when it comes to everyone, but if you’re okay with me, I’ll accompany you when I have the time.”
Yuigahama who took her kind gaze flew at Yukinoshita.
“Okay, it’s a promise. Yukinon, I love you!”
“Wait, could you not get so clingy? I only said when I have free time.”
Yukinoshita tried to wriggle her way out, but Yuigahama wouldn’t let go. Hiratsuka-sensei looked at both of them with distant eyes.
“Sure is nice to be young…”
Hurry! Someone hurry up and take her!
And then, there was one more person with a complicated expression, watching from afar.
“O-Ooph, an unthinkable sneak attack… Komachi’s magnificent plan… As expected, Onii-chan’s youth love comedy is wrong…”
Hahaha, what a shame, huh Komachi?
It didn’t matter what kind of plan you cooked up, onii-chan was a guy who got giddy just from getting invited by another guy.
…It looks like onii-chan was the one who should be ashamed.
- Video ↩
- Ryoujin Hishou ↩
- Laughing At Danger ↩
- This may be a reference to the Bleach song called “Ichirin no Hana” which means A Single Flower. I believe there was another song with the same name, so it might be a parody on that song instead. ↩
- Lalaport is a shopping mall of the sort in Tokyo. ↩
- Mahjong Fight Club ↩
- Saki characters have the same VA as some of the characters in this series. ↩
- A line from Itsuki from Yu Yu Hakusho ↩
- Ponkan8. ↩
- Shining Star Horse. ↩
- QUIZ MAGIC ACADEMY ↩
- Kingdom of Ostriche ↩
- CHI-BA+KUN ↩
- Sanbatsu Nanamaru ↩
- Orandaya ↩
- Tokyo German Village ↩
- Inou Tadataka ↩
- In Japanese, it’s pronounced as ise-sebi (いせせび). ↩
- A phrase coined from the Japanese variety show, “10,000 Yen Hunter Chance”. In this case, Hunter Chance in the program was a period when you could take stuff from the other team. ↩
- Panel Quiz Attack 25 ↩
- Angel’s Bra Commercial ↩