After entering the month of December, the vibes of the New Year encroached into everyday life. Even the passing of time felt like it was urging by.
What remained of this year was close to three weeks.
The end of the year mood began to fill the air with the start of December. Unlike every other year, this year’s Sobu High student council officer election occurred far later than planned with little to no excitement. Yesterday, the voting took place quietly.
Isshiki begged Hayama in tears to do a campaign speech for her so they completely imitated Yukinoshita’s platform in their speech. And the result of tallying the votes on the same day was Isshiki Iroha being designated as the student council president.
Starting from today was when the new student council would operate.
But that was all irrelevant to the average student as they spend the day as they usually did.
I was the same. I went on with the same life that hadn’t changed to this day.
As usual, I attended classes and before realizing, it was after school.
When homeroom ended, I left the classroom.
The season had well past transitioned to winter and the visible sky from the windows of the hallway looked very cold.
I descended the stairs and turned into the hallway. Ahead was the student council room and with today being its first day of operation, there were people busily shuffling in and out the room.
Within that group of people was Isshiki Iroha.
When she saw me walking down the hallway, Isshiki gasped with a smile on her face. She waved her hands slightly in front of her chest.
I softly returned a greeting with just my neck and hurried forward.
When I did, Isshiki called out with a mushy voice.
This had to be that. That pattern where I would turn around because I thought I was the one being called, but when in reality, it was another senpai instead.
As I thought that, I disregarded her voice and when I began to walk again, the sound of tapping footsteps came from behind. When I turned around, Isshiki was coming after me. She pouted with a sullen look.
“Why are you ignoring mee?”
“Well, I thought you were calling someone else… Already on the job starting today?”
When I asked her, Isshiki puffed her chest out proudly.
“That’s right… Well, at first, I thought it wasn’t going to go well at all though.”
At first, she really did show a face of confidence, but as she neared the end of her sentence, that liveliness of hers grew weaker. Well, she did get swept into being the student council president with the development of events. Being anxious was reasonable and she’d probably amass quite a few failures.
But the failures she would go through from here on were definitely things you could do over, things that could be recovered. That’s why she didn’t need to fret. Feeling a little envious of that, I reflexively smiled.
“Well, there isn’t a student who is expecting anything of the student council, so why not just take it easy?”
“What’s that supposed to mean…?”
She looked at me with super spoiled eyes. But it’s not like I was expecting anything of her either… It’s just, well, if I were to pass some appropriate, encouraging words for her brand new start, then…
“…Next year, my sister’s going to enroll here.”
“Huh? Wait, the entrance exams aren’t even over yet.”
When I spoke, Isshiki shook her hands and gave me a look, “what in the world is this person saying?” “Shaddup, I’ve already decided that Komachi passing was a done deal.”
“So make it a good school.”
Isshiki’s mouth hung open. After that, not blushing and not acting flirtatious in the least, with her fluffy voice, she threw both her hands forward as if forcing back my words.
“What are you doing? Are you making passes at me? I’m sorry, you’re aiming too high. It’s creepy too and not possible.”
…The reason she rejected me this time was different than last time, wasn’t it?
“You know you’re a lot better when you talk honestly… I’m pretty sure Hayama would like you more that way.”
“Eh, really? Where’d you get that info from?”
Isshiki’s eyes suddenly sparkled as she took the bait. It’s nothing like that. I was simply just saying that compared to that character she made up for herself, it was a lot better. But explaining that was a pain, so I decided that I would deal with her indifferently and leave the premises.
“I just get that feeling. Well, do your best with whatever.”
“Okay~. Then again, that’s not it! Right now, we’re in the middle of remodeling the student council room. Do you want to see, senpai?”
Remodeling huh… Was remodeling the student council room really a thing…?
Isshiki grabbed my sleeve and pulled it. This was probably that. She was probably thinking of getting me to help her, huh…
Well, it’s not like I had any pressing matters to attend to. Since I was the one who spurred her on as the student council president, I could at least help her a little.
As I thought that, we walked towards the student council room and when we made it, a voice came from inside.
“Irohasu, what do I do with this…? Irohasu?”
This was one familiar voice… When I took a peek inside, oddly enough, Tobe was inside.
In this absurdly freezing cold, for some reason he was in a T-shirt with a towel wrapped around his head. This guy was kind of like those part timers you’d see at a ramen shop… Tobe was holding a small box with both hands and continued to call out for Isshiki. As I thought about what the heck he was holding, on closer inspection, it was a refrigerator…
“Isshiki, is that a good idea?”
I faced back to Isshiki to ask her and Isshiki energetically answered.
“Well, it’s going to be my room starting from today after all. Of course I’d want to be a little picky about these things—!”
“Ah, I see…”
What I wanted to ask wasn’t about whether bringing a refrigerator in here was a good idea, but about leaving Tobe stranded like that… He’s been calling for you since a while ago now…
“Irohasu? Where should I put the heater—?”
Tobe’s yelling voice could be heard again. When I peeked inside again, this time he was holding a halogen heater.
“Isshiki, is that a good idea?”
I asked Isshiki again and Isshiki squeezed her hands together to warm it up.
“I’m really sensitive to the cold, you know—?”
“Ah, I see…”
Like I’d know that… What I wanted to ask about was Tobe… Well, whatever, it’s Tobe after all.
But still, was this student council going to be okay…? Little late than never, but I started to get a little worried.
Tobe stuck his head out unable to withstand it any longer.
“Oooh, what’s this? Hikitani-kun, ya helping out?”
“No… Just passing by.”
“Are ya serious? Seriously, if Hayato-kun doesn’t get here quick, I’m gonna go nuts.”
As we held that barebones conversation, Isshiki barged in.
“Ah, Tobe-senpai. The refrigerator doesn’t go there. It should go farther in. Also, the heater should be next to the table.”
“R-Right… That’s what I wanted to ask in the first place…”
Tobe’s face cramped up. Isshiki smiled as she said “please go ahead” and Tobe dragged himself back to work.
Seeing him off, Isshiki turned around to me and spoke as if the thought just came to mind at that instant.
“Ah, senpai should help out too!”
Or so I said, but the student council room wasn’t all that big of a room. If there were too many people in there, I’d just be a nuisance. Besides, if you needed help, Tobe should be sufficient. There were other new looking officers running about too, so it should be okay even if I go home, right?
But in that group was a familiar person.
Meguri-senpai was laboriously carrying a heavy looking cardboard box. As soon as she noticed me, she made an airy smile. When she tried to wave her hands, realizing that her hands were occupied, she panicked horribly.
…Well, I didn’t have any urgent business anyway.
“…Just for a bit.”
“Really!? Thank you very much!”
A good portion of Isshiki’s words went through one ear and out the other as I entered the student council room. And then, I supported the baggage that Meguri-senpai was holding as she was about to lose her balance before my eyes.
“I’ll carry this for you.”
“Eh? T-T-Thank you.”
I took the cardboard box and carried it towards the entrance as per Meguri-senpai’s instructions. When I made it out into the hallway, I placed the box down softly and breathed out.
“Ahaha, I’m sorry, Hikigaya-kun.”
“It’s okay. I’m helping out after all.”
While those words were to the point and cool, the box was pretty darn heavy…
A gradual feeling of fatigue lingered on my hands. Reflexively, I looked at my palms and Meguri had a slightly embarrassed smile.
“Well, I had a lot more personal stuff than I thought. After putting them together, it turned out to be quite a lot.”
“This is personal stuff, huh…?”
I was a little interested in the personal stuff of Meguri-senpai. When you hear “a girl’s personal stuff” (English: girls’ private items), didn’t your chest throb? Didn’t it? Well, I was the only one with a throbbing chest and of course, Meguri-senpai’s chest wasn’t throbbing either. In fact, she looked a little solemn instead.
“This room seems different, huh…”
She said those few words.
Meguri-senpai’s term of office was one year. In that year, she spent her time in this room. And today, she would be yielding that to Isshiki. Of course, she wouldn’t be passing on the baton until a little later, but even so, that space where she used to be had already became something different. The people inside who were making narrow movements were different as well.
Meguri-senpai looked at them from afar and smiled.
“…To be honest, I had expectations.”
I didn’t ask what those were. Meguri-senpai continued her words slowly and carefully, with a loose tempo like always.
“Yukinoshita-san would become the president. And then, to add to that, Yuigahama-san would be the vice president. Then… Hikigaya-kun would be the general affairs!”
“Why am I the general affairs…?”
Only I get a position of no responsibility?
When I said that, Meguri-senpai amusingly laughed and continued.
“And then, see, after graduating, I would come by the student council room sometimes to have fun… And then we could talk about how fun the Culture Festival and the Athletics Festival was.”
With an innocent smile that surpassed my own youth, my senpai spoke.
“…I really wanted to do that.”
Was that kind of future even possible?
It definitely was.
However, that was an impossible dream, a proposition that would go unfulfilled.
Things could not be undone. You were only allowed to do things over. But sometimes, you weren’t allowed to do even that.
Meguri-senpai touched the door of the student council room with affection.
After that, she nodded with spirit and raised her head.
“I better teach Isshiki-san real good. Yeah, I’ll do my best!”
“…Well, I’ll be off then.”
When I went up to the door, I turned around. I then bowed my head.
“Thank you for the hard work.”
“…Thank you. Hikigaya-kun too. Thank you for your hard work!”
That gentle voice was received by my back as I left the student council room.
× × ×
After leaving the student council room, I walked down the hallway leading to the special building.
On that day. On that day with Yukinoshita and Yuigahama when I confirmed their intentions for running for candidacy. A whole week had passed since then. On that day, we waited for Yukinoshita to come back, but because she came back at the very last minute before it was time to head home, we went our ways without having a decent conversation.
But the club continued as usual. There weren’t any changes in the activity details and the club. Either I was reading a book like always or I was just idling leisurely.
I placed my hands on the door when I arrived in front of the room. I nonchalantly opened the door.
I gave a short greeting and Yuigahama, whose face was buried in the desk, perked up.
“Hikki, you’re so slow!”
“Er, something came up. Sorry.”
I pulled my chair out as I said that. A quiet voice called out to me from a position slightly farther from the usual place.
“It’s not a problem. It’s not like we’re particularly busy with anything right now.”
Yukinoshita spoke, not looking any different up until now. The tone of her voice was extremely composed. Her gaze was directed at the book in her hands and the tip of her fingers slowly turned the pages of the book.
Yuigahama complained momentarily, but since there wasn’t anything to do, she went back to fiddling with her cellphone.
“Well, I guess we have some free time right now.”
“Sounds good to me, having free time and all. They do say stuff like there being no leisure for the poor, so having free time is a good thing. Well, since that’s the case, it’s exactly because of society’s unemployment that, conversely, you would end up being the wealthy winner. As I thought, to work is to lose.”
“That’s an opinion very like you.”
Yukinoshita spoke calmly as she flipped the page of her book. I also grabbed a book out of my bag and opened up to a page I wouldn’t even read.
“School’s about to end soon, huh?”
With no logical context, Yuigahama spoke and hit her hands as if she came up with something.
“Ah, let’s have a Christmas party, a party! I want to eat pizza.”
“Yuigahama-san, you can eat that whenever you want.”
As usual, Yukinoshita continued reading as she said that and Yuigahama had a perplexed expression.
“Eh. Really? My house only eats it on special days so…”
“Well, my place only orders it on special days too. Like during a typhoon or on a day with heavy snow.”
“The special ones are your family, Hikki… Poor delivery men…”
Regardless of what she said, it was their job as delivery men so it couldn’t be helped. If they’re going to hate someone, then they should hate the very existence of jobs. Anyway, I had an argument for that prepared.
“They’re a lot more pitiful on Christmas, aren’t they? What with all the orders they get. As such, the days where they didn’t get very many orders were a form of consideration.”
Yuigahama had an unconvinced expression, but halfway through, something came to mind.
“Ah! Right! That’s why a party! See, maybe at like Yukinon’s place or something.”
“That sounds lovely… But, I’m sorry. I’ll be going back home this winter.”
When Yukinoshita spoke, Yuigahama came up with a new proposal.
“Ah, I see. Why don’t we go out somewhere, then?”
“Sure. However, I still don’t know what the plans at home are yet.”
Saying that, Yukinoshita faced Yuigahama and smiled.
“…Oh okay. Then after you find out, okay?”
What did Yuigahama think about after seeing that smile?
The setting sun had already disappeared into the end of the sea. Only the afterglow lingered in the sky and the radiance was nowhere to be found. There was just this loneliness that seemingly regretted the end of the day.
“The day’s gotten shorter, huh…”
Yukinoshita murmured, apparently looking outside the window just like me.
It was almost time for the winter solstice to come. Recently, the dark nights gradually and steadily grew longer. These long, dark nights would probably become longer as if dawn would never come.
“Why don’t we stop here for today?”
Having said that, Yukinoshita closed her book and placed it in her bag. We nodded and stood up.
This entire week was spent the same way similar to today.
Yukinoshita looked the same as she did before the field trip.
No, she was conducting herself in the same and unchanging way. I thought that was something obvious to anyone.
She was very quiet, but she would properly react and she would occasionally softly smile at Yuigahama.
However, that horrible way of smiling wasn’t it. As if thinking of the deceased, as if looking at an infant, as if yearning for something that couldn’t be recovered anymore, that way of smiling tormented the hearts of those it was directed at.
However, she couldn’t be criticized.
That’s because both Yuigahama and I were going along with it. We would fire conversations one after the other and force ourselves to say stupid things to stave away silence.
It was a meaningless period of time, a skidding emptiness of superficiality. It was an act that appeared friendly only on the surface which was what both she and I should have hated the most.
This, which I gambled for close to a month and grabbed ahold of, was what I believed in.
What I asked myself repeatedly over and over again, I did it once more; “did I not make a mistake?”
Was I just drunk on myself? Was I indulging in my own confidence? Was I happy with my own thoughts? Were the things I was supposed to have done somewhere else and not plan more than I needed to?
Even so, the reason why I couldn’t provide an answer undoubtedly was a fault with my myself.
I was called a monster of logic.
But logic was the opposite of emotions.
Therefore, a monster of logic was an existence inferior to people that didn’t understand emotions. Wasn’t I told that? That it was an existence less than that of a person and that it would look at people not as a human and that it would continue to be a slave to its conscious of its own free will.
The moment just before I left the room, I turned around.
Even though the same people were gathered here, it felt like it was a completely different place.
The scent of tea was no longer there.
× × ×
This is a “what if?” scenario.
What if life was like a game where you could load up a save file and go back to a point where you could alter your choice? Would your life change in any way?
The answer is a resounding no.
Only those who were blessed with choices would benefit. To those who never had those choices in the first place, that hypothetical scenario was meaningless.
As such, there would be no regrets. More accurately, it was life itself that was the epitome of regrets.
Now then, there was something I thought I really wanted to protect, but what exactly was it?