…Is she an idiot?
Moments before class was about to begin, that mutter slipped out of my mouth.
On the single sheet of paper mixed in my bag was familiar handwriting. Apparently, it was addressed to me from my little sister, Komachi.
The lovely letter set was arranged with Christmas color themed lamé that sparkled like snow and inside the envelope was an extremely uncute wish list of presents.
Well, what she really wanted to tell me was probably to buy detergent on the way back home in that last portion. This was what they called a Komachi joke… right? If not, then this wasn’t actually a list with high liquidity, right? Oh gosh, my little sister’s so scary.
For now, ignoring those first three things, I’ll make sure to buy detergent on the way home.
But those first three things were the only things I could ignore. The remaining written portion pulled at my chest.
What exactly was that again?
Happiness was what again…? The delicious soy sauce at my house1? You don’t say, I already had that! I was so glad I was born in Chiba!! Chiba’s soy sauce is number one in Japaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! (Our production output is).
Oooh, I just missed a bullet there. Had I not been born in Chiba, “I wonder what happiness is…” would’ve filled my head and I’d be in deep crap. Thank you, Kikkoman2. So that was that, but what’s the kikko in Kikkoman about? Forever age 173? Hey, hey.
Or whatever. I had to brag a little about Chiba while poking fun at it because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to take those words upfront since it was too embarrassing. Komachi probably felt the same way which was why she went through the trouble of garnishing the letter with needless words. We siblings were spitting images of each other.
But still, for Komachi to give me a letter, it looked like she may have had something in mind.
The chain of events regarding the student council election the other day was something that concerned Komachi as well. Or rather, I was the one who asked Komachi for her cooperation.
Whether that was a good thing or not, I still wasn’t sure.
Komachi didn’t pester me for the details of the outcome as if she was being considerate of how I was feeling. Well, even if she asked me persistently, I didn’t think I would’ve been able to explain it well and I’d probably just get irritated instead. And then, if we ended getting into another fight, I wouldn’t stand a chance.
I suppose it was because Komachi was aware of this that she was being considerate even if it was roundabout. As expected, a top-notch little sister.
Since it’s a request from my little sister, granting her wish was Mountain Mountain4, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any money. To top it off, I couldn’t even grant one her of wishes that she mixed in as a joke either.
Hikigaya Hachiman’s happiness, Hikigaya Hachiman’s wish, and Hikigaya Hachiman’s desire.
To this day, I had never given them too much thought before.
So, what was my happiness and what was it that I wanted? I didn’t know any of them, but here I was today.
If I had something I could wish for just like how Komachi wished something for me. If that wish of mine would actually be heard. And if that wish was allowed.
If it was me…
…If it was me, I’d wish for Komachi’s happiness, duh! I’d wish for our Pretty Cure Cure Lovely and Honey Princess Fortune and do a Happiness Charge5!
Still, since she was my cute little sister, I had to make sure not to bother her during this season right now. After all, she was a student taking tests right now.
I didn’t want to make her needlessly anxious as well as take up her time during an important period like this.
So for now, putting my happiness and so forth aside, I folded the letter and slipped it into the inner pocket of my uniform. I felt slightly warm in just that small area. What’s this? Don’t you love your little sister just a tad too much? No problem, she’s my little sister, so I was safe. Then again, I was completely out in a different meaning, wasn’t I?
Letting my face loosen up from just looking at a letter given to my little sister was considerably bad, so I sat up straight and fixed my collar.
It was that. I had better protect my cool image. By the way, there were many cases where while you thought you were cool, the people around you saw you as a gloomy person instead, so you had to be careful (self research).
As I wasted time looking at the letter from Komachi, it was just about time for morning homeroom to start. My classmates would frantically rush into the class.
And in that group of people appeared a girl listlessly walking, not paying any heed to things like the chime. Her bluish, dark long hair fluttered in unison with every step.
Kawasomething… No, Yamasomething? Or was it Yutakasomething? Well, let’s just go with Somekawayutaka-san. Kawasomething-san headed for her seat, indifferent to what was going on in the class. Halfway through, her cold and composed eyes clashed with mine.
After our eyes met, we were both quiet for a moment. And then for some reason, we both froze up.
We may be strangers, but I should at least greet her. Well, it’s not like I knew her name though. Anyway, I was in her debt for her help with the student council election the other day as well. I never did get to thank her. But back to the present, I didn’t know what to say or how to talk to her.
“Aah… well, you know.”
For the time being, I spat out a meaningless sigh and empty words, hoping to find a trigger to start up a conversation. When I did, the other party looked like she may have been trying to figure out what to say as well. Her lips wiggled around and she then spoke in a small voice.
She greeted me with her still stone cold expression and I reflexively gave a half-baked reply.
Because she pulled the rug from under me, I sat there unable to say anything worthwhile. The conversation didn’t go any further than that and she hurried to her desk near the window side in the back.
Well, it was kind of awkward with that long pause after all. The best choice at a time like this was to run away. Seeing that I was already in my seat, the only remaining option was in that direction.
Whether she had no sleep or whether she wasn’t motivated, upon making it to her desk, she collapsed on top of it. As I watched her, I calmly reflected on our earlier exchange.
…Hey, hey, seriously? Kawasomething-san greeted me. We both didn’t even know each other’s names, so wasn’t this some great progress?
Though, even elementary kids would properly greet people. In fact, they were even taught in elementary to be assertive when greeting suspicious people. With that in mind, for the other party to give their greeting first meant they were preemptively spreading a rumor against suspicious people! It was basically that. Something along the lines of “what are you looking at, punk, where middle school are you from?6” maybe?
Well, for a suspicious person whose expression loosened up from a letter that his little sister gave him, a jab of this level was expected. But wait just a moment. If my memory serves me right, I recall her grinning over a mail from her little brother, Kawasaki Taishi. Ah, that’s right, her name was Kawasaki.
…Oh my, what’s with that girl, she’s so suspicious. Next time, I’ll greet her and keep her in check.
Greetings were really important, weren’t they?
This world had become a world where you had to be wary of those who greeted you, not where you had to be wary of the misunderstanding that being greeted meant the other party wanted to get closer to you. POISON.
As I watched Kawasaki, I rested my chin on my hands and looked around the room as well.
There weren’t any noticeable changes in my classmates, but the scenery they were in looked slightly different.
The lockers in the back were jammed with coats and mufflers. There was even a teakettle pot someone freely brought in as well. The girls had blankets on their laps, covering a good portion of their legs.
And amongst those girls was a girl who was openly showing her long legs. It was Miura Yumiko.
As she twirled her winding blonde hair, she slowly alternated her crossed legs that stretched out from her short skirt. When she did, the hems of her skirt fluttered lightly.
I reflexively used my force of will to restrain my eyes from being pulled in. I managed to hold out so that she was barely in my field of vision. There’s no way I could restrain myself, huh? I was already looking too. Ah, but wait a second! For her to be sitting meant she was letting her guard down and the scene would… Or so I thought, but there was this waft of smoke floating around Miura. What is this, censorship? Are they going to remove it in the BDs?
My eyes were normally half-open, but I thought maybe I could see something (pink) if I were to narrow my eyes. When I stared with my clouded eyes, what I discovered was a small machine puffing out smoke. Aah, that must’ve been the humidifier Yuigahama was talking about. It definitely was puffing things out. It was becoming the kind of smoke used for when an enemy character made his appearance.
Miura was acting like her usual Queen self and next to her were the same serving two, Yuigahama and Ebina-san.
“Yumiko, aren’t you cold?”
Ebina-san spoke with consideration and Miura gently flicked away her blonde drills with a confident smile.
“Not reaaaally? This much is normal, isn’t it?”
Although she said that, Miura lightly sneezed. Yuigahama and Ebina-san looked at Miura who had an embarrassed face and made warm expressions. Yep, yep, I feel kind of warm myself.
In contrast to Miura whose captivating bare legs were on public display, Ebina-san and Yuigahama were wearing jerseys underneath their skirt. Hey, think of the people who have to see you in that appearance. It really drops morale, so please stop it.
…No, but wait a second. Now that I took into consideration that only high school girls sport that kind of appearance, then I felt like it was good in its own way. The mismatch of the crappy, lame jersey underneath the skirt brought about a mysterious ensemble. Wasn’t it exactly because of this hidden nature that there existed a brilliance that allowed you to spread the wings of your imagination? You guys are my wings! It’d be a problem if you underestimated a boy’s imagination!
But the guys next to them looked like they didn’t have any interest at all as the jerseys Yuigahama and the others wore didn’t catch their fancy. Good grief, youngins these days truly were lacking in their ability to imagine. Well, it’s not like they were asking to look at them, so that’s fine, I suppose.
But while I was carefully observing them, it apparently wasn’t an issue of a lack of imagination.
I wasn’t sure if I could call this evidence, but Tobe was rocking his body restlessly as he brushed and pulled his hair at the nape of his neck. As he did that, he would make small glances towards the group. It looked somewhat uncomfortable.
He looked at Hayama, then at Miura and the others, and then he turned to Oooka and Yamato.
“But yeah, it’s seriously cold.”
Oooka answered and nodded and Yamato made an exaggerated sigh.
“To have a club on a day like this, no way.”
“Aah. There’s that too.”
So was there club or not…? I identified “there isn’t” and “there is” as having the same meaning and I seriously thought that the world was guided by the Law of Cycles7.
Tobe made a frivolous smile and looked at Hayama, Miura, and the others hoping for a similar opinion with a “right?”
When he did, Hayama made a smile and didn’t give a particularly worthwhile answer.
Miura caught a glimpse of that exchange. She peeked at Hayama’s face, but she didn’t say anything.
From a distance, you probably wouldn’t have thought there was anything different about Hayama’s group. If I ignored that trivial exchange they just had, even I’d think there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
However, there definitely was a rift in there somewhere.
Although the boys and girls were at the same place, there was no actual interaction between the two.
I finally realized that it wasn’t so much that Tobe and the others weren’t worrying about Miura and the others, but it was exactly because it bothered them that they were trying to act as if they didn’t see anything.
It may have looked like the same as always, but it was certainly different.
Perhaps it was because there was an uncomfortable distance between the master pieces, Hayama and Miura, who were the centers of the group. If there was a rift between the centers, then it was obvious there would be one between the groups as well.
No one would talk about it.
But choosing not to talk about it indicated how detached they were and this only served to widen the gap between them.
Did something happen between them? Tobe wasn’t getting ignored because Miura hated him, right? Oh my, what a poor fellow! Reminds me of myself!
The problem probably didn’t lie with Tobe, but with Miura who was concerned about that double date the other day. Well, if you thought about it normally, then it was Hayama we were talking about. I most certainly thought it didn’t mean anything if he was just hanging out with girls from other schools. But, apparently the way I saw him was slightly different.
True enough, Hayama wasn’t the type that would be the center of conspicuous rumors of being a philanderer. In fact, you could see that he kept a certain distance between girls he didn’t know very well.
But it might be exactly because of that that Miura felt uneasy having seen him in person at that place.
The Hayama that I saw and the Hayama that Miura saw were probably different. In other words, Miura saw Hayama as someone who wouldn’t do that sort of thing.
…Well, you know, I feel kind of bad about it. The reason Hayama was doing that was partly my fault and Miura ended up anxious since he got mixed up with me. But the one who needlessly got involved was also to blame too, so I absolutely wasn’t the one wholly guilty here. But it’s not like I did something bad to Miura… I did see her panties (pink) that one time so my guilty conscience towards Miura accelerated even more.
As expected, if Miura wasn’t energetic, then the entire group would be gloomy. But Miura wasn’t the only one out of place.
Yuigahama wasn’t her usual self as well.
She’d smile as she quietly listened to the conversation Tobe and the others had and she’d take turns listening to Miura and Ebina-san as they talked.
Yuigahama was different from when she was in the club room.
She wouldn’t assertively try to speak up or force the conversation to continue. Above all else, she didn’t behave in a way that looked like she would try to read into the responses and expressions of the other party.
It’s possible that being with Miura and the others gave Yuigahama peace of mind. Surely enough, the club wasn’t a place she could feel at ease anymore.
That fact left a huge burden on my chest.
The conversation in Hayama’s group had stopped, but Tobe would go “aah” while keeping his sigh from slipping out. From there, he followed into his next words.
“…But ya know? It’s been freakin’ cold these days. Totally freezing here.”
Tobe! The same thing! You’re talking about the same thing from earlier you know! I mean, sure the weather was the number one topic to turn to when you needed something to talk about, but you’re abusing it, you know… It’s becoming something like that Gondoh, Gondoh, Rain, Gondoh thing8.
Oooka and Yamato responded to Tobe’s words in the same way they did earlier.
“Well, it is winter already.”
“I know, right?”
Tobe and the others continued the same conversation that seemed like the world was operating on loops and not pre-established harmony9. But the Tobe from today on was different. Well, I didn’t know how he was normally though. Sorry for not having any interest in Tobe, okay?
“Speakin’ of which, ya guys plannin’ anythin’ for Christmas?”
Although Tobe looked like he was asking Hayama, weren’t his ears pointing suspiciously in the direction of Ebina-san?
Noticing that sign, Ebina-san took the initiative.
“I’ll be busy with preparations for next year, I think.”
Aah, I imagine so. There was that winter festival that would be open during dawn after all. As she nodded convincingly, Miura reacted with a twitch, looking disinterested up until now. She stopped the hands that were twirling her hair around.
“Christmas huh…? Ebina is, well, whatever… But what’s everyone else going to do?”
As she said that, her gaze was slightly looking in Hayama’s direction, but she quickly looked away. She was restlessly fidgeting with the hems of her skirt and pushing them away under the desk. Her cheeks were looking a little flushed (pink).
Ooh, you go girl! Do your best, Miura…! Then again, why was I rooting for Ms. Queen anyway? Ah, it’s not like I was rooting for Tobe-kun at all.
But Hayama leaned his head turning my support into nothing.
“I might have some things to do…”
As if those words were surprising, Miura’s voice slightly choked up as she questioned him.
“Ha-Hayato… D-Did you have some plans?”
“Hm…? Ah, just some business at home.”
Hayama responded with a smile that didn’t look as restless as it did earlier. Instead it had its usual warmth to it.
Miura looked away from Hayama and began fiddling with her hair again, acting indifferently. She looked restless as if she wanted to ask about something, but she never went further than that.
When the conversation between those two stopped, the boys and girls were split up again. The topics naturally dispersed between the two; the boys talked about club activities during the winter break and the girls discussed what they were expecting to buy on Christmas.
Tobe seemed reluctant with how things were going and after he scratched his head, he stretched out a finger and looked at everyone.
“Oh, how about that then! Hatsumode10 or something.”
It looked like Tobe was trying his best to shift the topic back to earlier. I wasn’t sure when Hayama described Tobe as the mood maker, but I guess that was true… Although it looked like he wasn’t thinking about anything, he was surprisingly considerate of those around him. Or maybe it was because he realized that it wouldn’t be good if the gap between them continued to grow. Because he had been living up until now as someone quick to go with the flow, he was probably sensitive to it.
“Mmm, I think I’m going to spend the New Year with my family though…”
Tobe was putting in the effort, but Ebina once again sidestepped the issue. Tobe’s shoulders dropped instantly.
Or so I thought, but Ebina-san placed a finger on her cheek and went into thought.
“But it doesn’t have to be that day… It’d be nice if we could all go out.”
Ebina-san emphasized the “we” in her words and Miura suddenly raised her head.
“Ah, that sounds good?”
“Yep, it does.”
When Yuigahama agreed, so did Yamato and Oooka who nodded. When they did, Tobe would look at everyone’s face as he would go “Right? Right?” After seeing that, Hayama gently made a broad smile.
“R-Right!? Then, then, then, when should we go? Ah, Hayato-kun, are ya the type that can go any time? By the way, I can go any time.”
“We have club you know…”
Hayama sighed with a mix of resignation. Listening on the side was Miura who spoke up in disinterest.
“So, when should we do it…? I’m like totally free whenever.”
Miura’s tone clearly sounded like she was disinterested, but when she looked at her nails that she raised up to the lights, she looked agitated somehow. When she confirmed that everything was right on the mark, she let out a giggle.
Ebina-san looked at Miura with gentle eyes.
They were finally able to have a warm conversation again. Yuigahama sighed in relief to that.
Yuigahama excused herself from Miura and the others and left them. Oh my, could she be going out to pick some flowers? But still, how would this kind of jargon work for guys? “I’m going to go hunt for some deer for a little bit” might sound a little cool.
I thought about that, but apparently that wasn’t the case. Yuigahama headed for her locker in the back and was sifting through something. After that, instead of going back to Miura and the others, for some reason, she was approaching me.
When she called me, I turned towards Yuigahama. When I did, Yuigahama stood still for a moment and twisted her body uncomfortably. And then, she spoke reluctantly.
“You were looking over here a lot so…”
“Eh, er, it’s not like I was looking or anything…”
I unintentionally mumbled my answer. Sure, I was definitely watching, but being told that directly was a little awkward. Just as I was about to continue with excuses, Yuigahama shook her hands and interrupted me with a resigned tone.
“No, no, you were totally looking. It’s because Hikki was giving that weird glaring look. To be honest, it really made me go ‘ugh’.”
What’s with the “ugh”…? Isn’t that kind of mean?
“If anything, you’re the one that shouldn’t be looking over here…”
“Eh!? Er, that’s like, like you know! I just kind of sensed it you know! Like there’s this pressure or chill or something…”
Those two were quite different, but whatever… As she shook her hands restlessly and voiced excuses in a panicky manner, Yuigahama added something at the very end.
“Anyway, why were you looking over here? Did you need something?”
Although I thought that there really wasn’t any reason why I was looking in response to that question, but it pulled at my heart somewhere. Why was I looking at them?
“…No, not really… Well, you guys stick out so I couldn’t help it.”
Yuigahama’s response gave off a weird feeling that she was both convinced and not convinced at the same time. However, it wasn’t like I had said a lie. Hayama’s group stuck out. Things that stood out naturally attracted your eyes. That’s why unintentionally looking wasn’t anything odd.
However, the reason I was watching them definitely wasn’t because of just that.
Just how were you supposed to fix something that came unstuck and dropped to the bottom?
If it was Hayama’s group, then I felt they would’ve given me the answer to that.
The key point behind human observation wasn’t just to watch other people. Instead, it might’ve been to emulate what they did as well as reflect on your life.
The reason I was watching Hayama’s group was probably because despite being aware that in that group there existed the relationship I thought was superficial and deceitful, I was assimilating that into my current self.
Tobe may have been reacting unconsciously to the sensitive atmosphere, but Ebina-san was probably aware as she tried to close the rift.
By slowly reconciling the slight differences in opinion and feelings of discomfort, Miura, Hayama, Tobe, and Ebina-san would regulate how they would act with each other, looking for a universal compromise that they would all agree with. That was how I saw it.
Even that kind of relationship existed.
They, too, had actual doubts about their own communication, worrying and fumbling about.
–In that case, what exactly was fake?
Just as I was about to be entrapped in my own thoughts, Yuigahama’s voice brought me back. I raised my face and Yuigahama was looking at me with a slightly worried face. Before realizing it, our faces were close enough that I could distinctively feel her warm breath and sense her moist eyes on me.
I jerked back onto my chair and took some distance. Now wasn’t the time to show an expression that would get Yuigahama anxious. There was no doubt she was also at a loss about the Service Club’s current situation. I was the cause behind it as well, so I should at least try to conduct myself properly.
I stopped thinking for now. I thought it was a problem to think about only when I was alone. And those times were abundant. This was where being a loner was convenient.
I quickly changed the topic.
“Anyway, you guys should be a little quieter if you don’t want anyone looking at you. It’s that, you know. I bet 40% of the stares directed at you were probably saying how annoying you guys were.”
“Uu, I wonder about that… But Tobecchi’s there, so I don’t think that’s possible.”
She sure did say something really cruel there. Sure, Tobe may be annoying and obnoxious, but he had some good parts to him too. Like how durable the roots of his hair were or something.
Well, still, noisy or not, there were times when your eyes would get drawn away anyway. Even as I talked with Yuigahama right now, my eyes moved around arbitrarily.
See, the thing is, when something moved around in your line of sight, it tended to grab your attention right? I don’t think I need to mention that someone cute would be even more alluring.
Maybe that was why my eyes simultaneously looked in the direction of the door when it slid open at the front of class.
The person who entered wearing a long sleeved jersey and long pants was Totsuka Saika. He came in breathing out a sigh as if the hallway was chilling down. Reflexively, I breathed in. Aah, the air that Totsuka breathed out just now was now inside of me… Okay, even for me, that was really disgusting.
When Totsuka noticed Yuigahama and me, he walked in our direction.
Along with his morning greeting was a smile that looked like a blooming flower. Just as I thought, greetings were important… I thought it would be a truly sad thing if that kind of greeting was used only for the sake of preventing crime, yep.
When Yuigahama and I greeted him back, Totsuka’s eyes blinked childishly. He sure is cute… Ah, no, that’s not it. Why was Totsuka slightly, adorably surprised? In fact, I should be the one surprised at how cute he was.
“Something wrong, Totsuka?”
Did we just say something weird? I asked Totsuka and he tried to brush it off as he slightly shook his hands in front of his chest noticing it.
“I just thought it was rare to see you two together in class like this.”
Yuigahama answered in surprise and Totsuka quickly added in a panic as if being considerate.
“Ah, it’s just an image I didn’t think about.”
Once he said that, that certainly did bring it to my attention. It was rare for Yuigahama to come talk to me in class.
Aah, that reminded me. Even though she went to the lockers in the back, she didn’t bring anything along, did she? If she suddenly came up to talk to me, it was likely people would think what was going on. So that’s why she added a cushion to avoid that. I guess that’s expected of her consideration…
Still, even with that kind of consideration, if the people watching actually paid attention, they’d notice how unnatural it was.
“…Did something happen?”
Totsuka looked at Yuigahama and me in turn and asked with a worried tone.
“No, not at all…! W-Well, it’s just something to do with a request for club, I guess.”
“Aah, club huh?”
Yuigahama mumbled in a panic and Totsuka looked convinced as he clapped his hands. Yep, not knowing to suspect others was a virtue. For someone as pure as Totsuka, there was the possibility that those who attempted to deceive him would end up dying from the guilt of their good conscience instead.
“But if you can do your club like before, I’m glad.”
Totsuka smiled as he said that and I thought he was saying it innocently. Totsuka was involved in the chain of events regarding the student council election as well. It was likely that the sight of Yuigahama and me talking about the club from the side was proof that everything went perfectly well.
However, Yuigahama’s expression stiffened.
“Y-Yeah… Ah, I know! If you have any other problems, you should come again, Sai-chan!”
Yuigahama momentarily choked up on her words, but quickly smoothed it over with a smile and spoke.
I wasn’t sure if you could say “like before”. We were definitely talking with Yukinoshita and by all means, it wasn’t a serious situation at all. No one was getting ignored and there weren’t conflicting opinions.
No, there was nothing at all. That was all there was to it.
Totsuka tilted his head to our sporadic exchange and he sent a dubious stare. His eyes were asking if something had happened. But I felt like I wouldn’t have been able to explain it properly. I quickly shifted the direction of the conversation.
“No, see, it’s basically that. It’s just there’s nothing happening that we’d totally be up for anything that came along! We’ll welcome it anytime, yeah!”
“You’re more motivated than usual!?”
Yuigahama’s eyes opened in shock. Wait, do I normally look that unmotivated…?
“Ahaha. Okay, then if something comes up, I’ll go.”
Totsuka smiled amusingly and peeked at the clock. It was almost time for the homeroom teacher to come.
“It looks like homeroom’s going to start soon.”
“Oh, you’re right. Okay, then we should get going.”
After they spoke, Yuigahama and Totsuka went away from my seat. And in that moment.
“…Ah, that’s right, Hikki.”
Yuigahama quickly turned around and stealthily moved her mouth to my ears.
A light, floral scent drifted by and a soft breath hit my ears. When she unexpectedly got closer, the warmth that I felt during that time in the evening after school in the cold room where something had ended came to mind.
My heart suddenly jumped. Yuigahama whispered in a quiet voice.
“…Let’s go to club together, okay?”
After saying those few words, Yuigahama dashed for her seat without waiting for my response. As I watched her off, I was squeezing my chest without noticing.
My heart wasn’t jumping around anymore. In fact, it felt like for how much my heart was jumping around, it was eating away inside of me and I was only able to barely keep it at.
The reason Yuigahama went out of her way to say that was because she felt it was hard to go to club.
I felt the same way. I just didn’t feel inclined to go.
Even though we went every day without fail, it felt cruel somewhere. Even though the three of us probably didn’t even want to go there.
However, we didn’t want to admit that we would still go. It’s because we just couldn’t admit to how big the things that we lost were.
Or possibly, we were going only out of obligation, only out of a sense of duty as if we wanted to preserve it and maintain it, similar to how different living things would try to preserve its kind as well as themselves.
Days where you just went about it so you weren’t running away.
These were the days that you lamented over the deceased.
In order to not make excuses for the things those were lost. In order not to accept giving into irrationality. That’s why, we would brace ourselves and behave like we usually do more than we would before.
That was surely deception.
However, the one who chose that was me.
You weren’t allowed to reconsider a choice. Time was already irreversible and there were many things that couldn’t be recovered. To grieve meant betraying your past self.
To regret something was proof that what you were holding onto was that big. That’s why, I wouldn’t grieve. In reality, I was able to grab onto something that I normally couldn’t get a hold of. That fact alone should’ve been enough satisfaction.
If you got used to good luck and happiness, then they were nothing more than something regular, your every day. Once that came to an end, then that was when you’d feel unhappiness.
In that case, if I presume that reaching out for nothing from here on was the natural thing to do, just doing that would lead to a fulfilling life.
At the very least, it should be done in such a way that wouldn’t deny my past self.
I would spend the rest of my days from now on in that way.
× × ×
As sadly as ever, it was after school with me not having absorbed a single thing from class. I finished the preparations to leave and was the first one to exit the classroom. Just before sliding open the door, I glanced in Yuigahama’s direction. It looked like Yuigahama was still talking about something with Miura and the others.
Well, considering she told me to go together with her, then I should be waiting. Even so, there wasn’t a need to wait in a conspicuous area.
I walked into the hallway and after taking a few steps, I leaned against the wall.
A whole minute had yet to pass when Yuigahama came rushing out of the classroom. When she looked around restlessly, she quickly noticed me. She approached me with an upset face.
“Why are you going ahead!?”
“I didn’t. I’m just waiting here.”
“I can see that…! Huh? Okay, that’s good then.”
After Yuigahama was conveniently convinced, she took a small breath and readjusted her backpack with some vigor.
“…Shall we get going?”
We exchanged glances in the hallway and began walking in the direction of the special building.
Accomplices in crime came to mind when we exchanged looks.
I kept my walking pace more lax than usual. If I went in the same pace as I did normally, I was sure I’d leave Yuigahama behind.
Unlike the classroom we were in earlier, the hallway was remarkably colder.
There wasn’t a single person who walked by as only our footsteps echoed in the hallway. We merely walked in silence.
Yuigahama was lively in class, but she was quiet right now. It was almost as if she was suffering from the backlash from then.
But with the club room almost nearby, Yuigahama spoke up, unable to handle the silence any longer.
When I moaned questioningly back, Yuigahama feebly shook her head.
When I answered, silence emerged again. Once we turned the next corner, we would arrive at the club. To me, the club was just part of my day, but I wonder how it was for Yuigahama. Yuigahama should’ve been eating lunch with Yukinoshita in there even now. It suddenly interested me and I asked about it.
“Oh yeah, what do you do for lunch?”
“Eh? Mmm, the same thing I’ve been doing like usual.”
Yuigahama thought for a little and made a troubled smile when she said so.
After hearing that, I felt convinced enough. There’s no doubt that what they talked about were all pointless things. Yuigahama would say something and Yukinoshita would answer. That exchange was what they had been doing all along.
Thinking on it, just the sight of it was the same as it always had been up until now. That’s why Yuigahama choked on her answer.
The same members spent the time together at the same place at the same time yet there was no way you could think of it as the same thing.
Ever since that day, I was still looking for the mistake that I had commited. Still unable to find the answer, I put my hands on the door.
The door was already unlocked.
Even though we left homeroom as soon as it ended, the master of this room had still made it here earlier than we did.
I opened the door and upon taking a step inside, the room felt terribly deserted. Was there really a club like this with absolutely nothing at all in it? The same desk and chairs and the tea set that had not been used at all recently were still there.
And Yukinoshita Yukino was also there, unchanging as ever.
Yuigahama energetically greeted her back and sat in her designated seat. I nodded lightly and arrived at my seat. These unmoving seats seemed like they were stakes fastened to the floor.
Yukinoshita sat in her seat, always sitting up straight as she returned to reading her book. Yuigahama took out her cellphone while I took out my paperback book from my bag again.
These actions were as if they were a set of rituals that we had adhered ourselves to. I even thought we could return back to before if we tried to the same thing as before. But, no matter how satisfied the conditions for activation were, that was impossible. If we tried to only superficially emulate it, then eventually, things would get worse.
A sigh wouldn’t come out.
“You know what, today, Sai-chan—“
Yuigahama suddenly spoke up. The way she was speaking resembled a little child trying her best to talk with her mother. However, that wasn’t it. All Yuigahama was trying to do was to shoot out words in succession in order to do something about the stagnating mood.
This resembled the same Yuigahama who read between the lines, but was unable to say the things she wanted to say.
Noticing that, I decided to jump on board with Yuigahama’s conversation.
The endless exchange. Just how long was this going to continue? Just how long could this go on? If this couldn’t go on any longer, what would happen?
I’m sure today, just like yesterday, would go by in the same way.
And then, it would probably be the same for tomorrow and the day after as well.
In a closed world, there wasn’t peace, but impasse and stagnation. The only remaining path was rotten, eventually being forgotten in time.
When Yuigahama ran out of topics to talk about, the conversation stopped. The sudden lull enveloped the room.
At that time, the door was knocked on as if destroying the stillness and the feeling of impasse in the room.
× × ×
The door was knocked on again.
We reflexively looked at each other since it’s been awhile since we had a visitor. I had no idea as to what these two were thinking about regarding this sudden visitor. Yuigahama had a surprised expression as she looked at the door while Yukinoshita’s expression didn’t change. As for me, I was biting on my lips, not having realized it.
Yukinoshita glanced at the door and called out. The person waited for her voice and opened the door.
A single girl was pressing against her eyes with her baggy cardigan while her flaxen hair fluttered about as she entered the room.
Upon Isshiki’s appearance, Yuigahama made a surprised face while Yukinoshita gently squinted. I probably had a disgusted look. She was appointed as the student council president just recently so why was she here already…? It didn’t look like she was here to fool around though…
Isshiki approached me with a cute, clingy voice, pathetic even, while paying no attention to our hesitant looks. She purposely broke into tears while moaning “fueee…”
“Senpaaai, this isn’t good, this isn’t good…”
As sly as ever… You’re kind of stimulating my desire to protect right now, could you please stop…? I’ll end up wanting to help you out, darn it. I would’ve immediately came to her rescue if it wasn’t for the fact that it was Isshiki.
“Iroha-chan, what’s wrong? Anyway, have a seat.”
“Ah, Yui-senpai, thank you very much.”
When Yuigahama suggested the chair, Isshiki sat down with an expression as if her break down earlier had flew off somewhere and never happened.
After seeing that, Yukinoshita called out to her.
“For now, why don’t you tell us your story?”
Yukinoshita’s voice didn’t sound any different from usual and there weren’t any hints of ill will in it either. I was relieved at how she handled it. But at the same time, a feeling of discomfort settled in along with my relieved self.
Why was I relieved right now?
Before I could dig out the true nature behind that discomfort, Isshiki spoke up.
“The thing is… The student council’s first job started last week.“
“Ah, you’re already working, huh? That was quick!”
Yuigahama responded back to which Isshiki would as well and she continued on.
“And so, that job is suuuper bad…”
Isshiki’s energy suddenly dropped the moment she uttered those words. Apparently, the details regarding that job came to mind. It must be pretty bad, huh…? With frightening thoughts in mind, I decided to ask what the job entailed.
“What’s bad about it?”
When I asked, Isshiki quickly raised her head.
“It’s almost Christmas, you knooow.“
“Aah, that’s true… Eh? No, you’re jumping into something completely different here.”
She sure surprised me… What’s with that sudden Boson Jump11 in the topic? Well, it most certainly was almost Christmas though. When I told her, Isshiki pouted in a sly, sullen manner.
“I’m not jumping into anything. Please listen to me properly!”
“That’s right, Hikki.”
For some reason, Yuigahama had sullen cheeks as she came to Isshiki’s support. Eeeh? Was I the one at fault here? The way you girls talk was way too special, you know. How could I ever understand?
I gave them a stare telling them I got it already and urged them to hurry on with the conversation. Isshiki started up once again.
“So, since it’s about Christmas, it became a talk about holding a Christmas event in conjunction with a nearby high school for the region. It sounded like an event for older people and little kids so…”
“Ooh, what school are you working with?”
“The other school is Kaihin Sougou High.”
Haa, with that school, huh… It was a fairly known college prep school near our school. It was a comparatively new school that resulted after three schools were combined together. With the quantity of three schools, it was rather huge in scale, it had luxurious facilities, and the buildings were beautiful. They even had flashy, convenient things like elevators and ID cards for roll call. I wasn’t too sure of the details of how it was structured, but they had some sort of credit-based system with a focus on an atmosphere encouraging leadership, so it should’ve been a well-received school.
Still, I felt there wasn’t anything significant that our schools had in common. It really made me think how unnatural this joint event was.
“…Who’s the one that brought up that plan?”
When I asked, Isshiki gently smiled that said nothing, but “oh c’mon, senpaaai” as if I had said something weird. She then answered me with a small, secretive voice that only I could understand.
“The other side brought it up, you knooow. There’s no waaay I’d bring it up myself.”
“I thought so…”
This girl totally looked like she was underestimating her job. I bet she’s a complete bother at work, wasn’t she? There was the saying “one man’s fault is another’s lesson.” I thought how I would absolutely not work so I wouldn’t be a bother to other people.
Even so, just how did she accept the proposal given her position on it…? I looked at her in resignation and Isshiki continued to vent as if she remembered her anger from earlier, making sure not to drop her “I’m cute” appeal as well.
“If they told me something like that any other time, of course I’d refuse, you knooow. I have plans for Christmas tooo.”
“Of course you’d refuse, huh…”
“Your reason’s too selfish, you know…”
Yuigahama and I ended up responding to Isshiki’s remaining words. I wasn’t sure whether she had a strong mentality or she didn’t know the meaning of fear… Wasn’t her personality rotten second to mine? A considerable feeling of affinity surfaced and if I made the wrong move, I’d probably end up falling for her, so I’d like for her to stop.
But apparently it wasn’t that she didn’t know the meaning of fear as Isshiki’s shoulders dropped and she murmured.
“But Hiratsuka-sensei said to do it, so…”
Oh, I see. So that person was involved after all. Then again, for Isshiki to be even weak with Hiratsuka-sensei meant our affinity was even higher an(ry12.
“So we got started, but how should I say this? We just can’t seem to get the ball rolling or something…”
Isshiki actually looked rather depressed this time and her voice didn’t sound like she was joking. It’s not like she was exceptionally hard working and she definitely was underestimating the work of the student council, but it seemed she was still worried about what to do. I should at least praise her for being motivated somewhat considering she didn’t abandon her duty and came here for help instead. In the first place, Isshiki didn’t start as the student council president voluntarily. I was partly to blame for leading her into it. That’s why I had some feelings of guilt and my attitude sweetened up.
“Well, if it’s together with another school, then that’s just how it is. Don’t worry about it too much.”
“I guess sooo?”
As she said that, Isshiki would look at me with upturned eyes while tilting her head with a “riiight?” She’s acting so sly that it’s not cute… I guess this was what differentiated her from Komachi.
In any case, let’s summarize the vague details of the conversation.
It seemed like the very first job chosen for the new student council was to set up a Christmas event as a regional contribution. That would be handled not just by Sobu High, but also in conjunction with Kaihin Sougou High.
This was a lot more difficult than the typical work the student council usually had to handle. Of course, there was the issue with cooperating with another school, but the relationships and positions in our student council have yet to be formally solidified. This baggage was a little too heavy for the rookies.
Considering the timing, could this have been something that was decided well before Isshiki had become president? So this meant that this was the inheritance of the previous generation.
You get that sometimes, you know? The things that were nonchalantly ignored by the previous person in charge. That happened at my earlier part time job. You’d work as you always would and suddenly, something would pop up like a land mine and it’d get forced onto you despite not knowing a thing about it. On top of that, even if you tried asking your predecessor, the person wouldn’t be any help because he wouldn’t be able to remember anything since it was a long time ago. What was I supposed to do, huh? Thanks to that, I ended up passing it on to my successor when I quit the job without ever bothering with it. That’s why I absolutely will not work for the sake of breaking away from this chain of negativity.
Well, my story didn’t matter here.
The problem was with Isshiki and that predecessor.
“If anything, shouldn’t you have gone to discuss this with Shiromeguri-senpai before coming here?”
Shiromeguri-senpai, the owner of the Megu Megu Megurin ♪ Megurin Power ☆. Shiromeguri Meguri-senpai was the student council president before Isshiki. She was warm and cute. What’s with this ridiculous description of her?
The official position of the student council president should’ve still been in the process of being transferred over. In the first place, it would’ve been more logical to discuss this with her beforehand. Speaking of which, why was Isshiki here if Meguri-senpai didn’t come non? Meguri, Konkon, Koi Iroha13? I didn’t really call for her though…
When I told her, Isshiki took her eyes off of me.
“Yes, that’s true… But there’s no way I could bother her while she’s in the middle of taking tests right now, could I?”
Meguri-senpai shouldn’t have been all that busy because she had a tentative offer for one of the schools she was recommended to though…? Could it be that she wasn’t very good at dealing with Meguri-senpai? Well, for someone like Isshiki who created her fluffy airheaded persona, in the presence of the authentic fluffy airheaded Megurin, she probably couldn’t handle the brilliance. Those who were authentic always shined brighter than anyone else so they were impossible to reach. I could understand why she’d want to avert her eyes from that reality.
“I only have you senpais left for help!”
After Isshiki’s detailed explanation, Yuigahama and I let out a short sigh. Not even an amazed voice came out. It must’ve been one of those types of sighs.
When we went silent, the peaceful time continued on.
That silence, however, wasn’t only because of us.
It was also because Yukinoshita, who to this day would assertively inquire about the details of the circumstances, had said nothing.
Noticing that, I looked at Yukinoshita.
Her long eyelashes were softly lowered and she looked at Isshiki, no, at us with eyes as clear as the surface of a lake.
Instantly, I came to realize what that feeling of discomfort was.
It was that feeling of discomfort that emerged from that feeling of relief when Isshiki came into the room and being relieved afterwards. It was in regards to the fact that nothing had happened when Isshiki and Yukinoshita confronted each other face to face.
What if Yukinoshita had earnestly wanted to be the student council president?
The one who had prevented her from doing so was Isshiki and above all else, me.
If so, then wasn’t this request somewhat cruel?
If we accepted the request, then that was equivalent to being a substitute for the student council president.
I still didn’t know what Yukinoshita’s true feelings were, but I thought that it was really heartless to drop the duties of the student council in front of Yukinoshita. Having something you wanted, but couldn’t grab a hold of dangled in front of you was surely nothing but cruel.
Was it really a good idea to accept Isshiki’s request like this? As I hesitated, Isshiki’s gaze was restless, suspicious of the silence.
“What should I dooo?”
Isshiki looked like she was fully ready to ask for help, but I was curious as to what Yukinoshita was going to say. I wanted to wait for her words, but Yukinoshita didn’t give an answer.
But as if sensing the stares from me and Yuigahama, Yukinoshita gently put her finger on her chin and started to think.
“I see… I understand most of the circumstances, but…”
Although she took a considerable amount of time to speak, Yukinoshita didn’t give a conclusion and her words were vaguely muddled.
She then glanced at Yuigahama and me.
“What should we do?”
Was this the first time? For Yukinoshita to ask us whether we should accept the request or not. To this day, she would’ve decided using her own judgment.
If you took that as a good change, then she was making a compromise. However, I felt that wasn’t it.
Conversely, Yuigahama’s answer was clear.
“Why not? Let’s do it.”
Yukinoshita gazed at Yuigahama, asking why with only just that.
“I mean, it’s been awhile since we’ve gotten a request, right? I mean, recently, there wasn’t anything like this. And we’re somewhat free so…”
With Yukinoshita’s calm eyes on Yuigahama, her words gradually slipped and slipped.
“That’s why I thought maybe we could try our best like, before, or something…”
The words “like before” pulled at me.
Yuigahama probably wanted to use it as a trigger. A trigger that would do away with this atmosphere as we concentrated on handling the consultation and request.
“I see. In that case, I think that’s fine too.”
However, Yukinoshita’s transparent voice rejected that possibility.
Her faint smile that questioned us wasn’t a compromise.
This was giving in. A conclusion upon resignation. It was simply a concession that left the issue to the judgment and conclusion of someone else’s.
“…No, I don’t think we should.”
My voice came out on its own.
Considering the state of the Service Club right now, I didn’t think the club could do anything. Furthermore, I wouldn’t expose the existence of the student council president right before Yukinoshita’s eyes. I didn’t know what Yukinoshita’s intentions were. However, I felt I probably wasn’t that far off the mark.
I couldn’t let this space degrade any further. We shouldn’t be taking any risks.
If I was moving to protect it, then I had to keep doing so until the end. Even if I didn’t know exactly when the end was and where the goal was.
Yukinoshita didn’t say anything about my opinion and only looked at me while Yuigahama asked for a reason.
“This is a problem with the student council. Besides, it’s not exactly a good thing for Isshiki to be relying on people so much.”
“Sure, but still…”
I voiced my public stance on the issue and Yuigahama took a thinking posture while rubbing the bun of her hair. It may be a public stance, but it was logical. It was reason enough to back off.
But there was just one person who didn’t seem convinced.
“Eeeh? What’s with thaaat?”
Isshiki started complaining. Well, I knew this was coming.
“We’re not the do anything club. At most, we only just lend a hand. We’re not sub-contractors who take up full-time projects. Being a subcontractor is super troublesome too. Know about the subcontract act? Not that I do. Anyway, you’re the one who should do it Isshiki. Got it? C’mon.”
I urged her to stand up as I responded vigorously and I stood up as well. From there, I pushed her along to the entrance of the room, sending her back to where she came from.
While Isshiki unwillingly went along with my zone press, she didn’t forget to throw in begrudging words.
“It’s because of what Senpai said that I became president, you knooow. I want you to do something.”
When she said that, I got weak.
It was natural that I took responsibility for Isshiki. She became the president because of my actions after all. So that being the case, I was the other person who had to take responsibility along with Isshiki.
That’s why what I would do was already decided.
I drove Isshiki out the room and I followed suit as well.
I closed the door with my hand behind me and took a few steps away from the room. I then turned around to the incessantly dissatisfied Isshiki and let out a small sigh.
“…So I said all that earlier. But do you mind if I help you?”
She looked like she didn’t understand what I said very well. Isshiki looked slightly doubtful. Well, I did refuse her quite forcefully earlier. It was reasonable for her to have that reaction. That’s why I slowly explained it to her.
“I’ll help you personally and not as part of the club. So this is without the help from Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. I think I should be able to do that if it’s like that.”
While listening to my explanation, Isshiki’s eyes narrowed as she hummed while thinking, but quickly nodded.
“…Well, that’s fine too. Actually, if it’s just senpai, then it’d be a lot easi…, it’d be more of a relief or more reliable.”
No, you didn’t have to correct yourself, okay?
“Okay, we’re good then, right?”
When I checked her with one last time, Isshiki energetically responded back.
In any case, I’ll try to do what I can. Of course I had doubts about just how much I could do, but well, I should be able to at least follow up on what Isshiki did.
Isshiki might look a little dumb with a quick glance, but it’s not like she wasn’t smart. Although, if she just did her job properly without relying on us, then I’m sure she’d start looking like a student council president too I think…
Aah, that’s right. Something came to mind when it came to relying on someone. Thinking back on it, I recall including a secret measure that Isshiki accepted when I was convincing her to take on the president position. But it didn’t seem be in use right now. Before getting to work, I figured I’d ask about that.
“Actually, what happened with Hayama? This is the perfect time to ask him for help, no?”
When I asked, Isshiki blushed slightly and looked away from me.
“…It’s actually really troublesome so I thought maybe I really shouldn’t bother Hayama-senpai with it after all.”
So you’re okay with bothering me instead…? Well, whatever.
Still, for her to say something admirable as not wanting to bother someone, Isshiki Iroha-chan was a proper maiden in love, huh? I couldn’t help but be impressed.
But right after I was impressed, Isshiki cackled with a devilish smile.
“Besides, wouldn’t it be cuter if I messed up somewhere than look like I couldn’t do something super easy? If it’s something really annoying, normally speaking, people would think more critically of you, you knooow?”
“Aah, I see…”
Hnnnn, this girl really ”does” have a wonderful personality doesn’t she…? Give it back! Give back my admiration! Rather than a devil, she’s a full blown demon. Ogre! Demon! Editor!
The little devil i r o h a didn’t pay any attention to me who was in ruined mood at all as she quickly jumped into the problem.
“Okay, senpai, let’s meet at the front gate after this. I’ll be right over there.”
“Eh, we have to start today…?”
When I said that, Isshiki had an apologetic face.
“I’m sorry, there isn’t that much time left…”
For there not to be much time left meant that the plan should’ve made some considerable progress so Isshiki had been trying her best since the beginning. In the end, she did decide to come to me for help, but she definitely did what she could with her own strength. There was no way I could criticize her for that.
“…No, that’s fine. But change where we meet. It’s a little embarassing to have rumors floating about us walking home together amongst your friends…”
Isshiki had a serious expression. Umm, I guess because she’s in a different generation that it’s not getting through, huh? She didn’t make a face saying “senpai, there’s no way you had frieeends” but a rather serious one instead. She then let out an astounded sigh.
“Well, that’s fine… Do you know where the community center near the station is? That’s where they’re having the meeting. We can meet there.”
“Aah, over there, huh?”
I had passed that numerous times on my way to station before. I recall there being a day service nursery there. I see. So “for the region” meant that it would accommodate the older people and young children there. It’s likely on the day of the event, it’d be held there.
Well, I’ll confirm the other details here and there later. For now, let’s leave the school.
“Got it. I’ll get ready and then head over there.”
“Okay. That being the case, I’ll be in your care.”
Isshiki grinned and bowed. That’s what I mean by being sly. Jeez.
× × ×
I walked Isshiki to the next corner of the hallway and returned to the room. Now then, I needed to make some preparations before going to the appointed place.
When I opened the door to the room, Yuigahama and Yukinoshita looked my way.
“What happened with Iroha-chan?”
Yuigahama asked and I parroted the words I had prepared.
“She was complaining a lot, but it looked like she was convinced.”
Yuigahama looked a little dejected somehow as she dropped her shoulders. And then, Yuigahama continued little by little with a small voice as if checking with Yukinoshita.
“It’s just… I thought it’d be kind of nice if we finally did something after such a long time…”
“Well, something should come up eventually.”
If that time came, how would I answer then? Not knowing the answer to that, I ended up saying something random.
When I did, Yukinoshita let out a considerably short sigh.
“…It might actually be better if we didn’t get a request. It’d be better to just pass the time peacefully.”
Yukinoshita gently shifted her eyes to outside of the window. The dim dark red sky should have been reflected in those eyes.
I managed to answer to Yukinoshita’s fleeting voice. In order to not drag that out any longer, I quickly added in succession.
“It doesn’t look like there’ll be anyone else coming today.”
“I suppose so…”
Yukinoshita answered and closed her book. It looked like she saw it as a sign to call it a day. After I confirmed that, I grabbed my bag.
“I’ll be heading home then.”
“Ah, I guess we should call it a day.”
As we had that conversation, I turned around and left the room ahead of Yuigahama and Yukinoshita who were noisily getting ready to head home.
It was something that I had realized a long time ago. It wasn’t necessarily always correct to reach out. There were things that would result in the worst possible outcomes even if you thought what you did was the right thing to do. There were things, from time to time, where you couldn’t take anything back or redo anything.
In that case, what have I–
What have we been doing all this time?
- Soy sauce ↩
- Soy sauce manufacturer which is based in Chiba. ↩
- Kikuko Inoue is a voice actor who has a thing for the number 17. ↩
- Mountain Mountain — Not too sure about this joke, but it’s pretty much, “I’d go through hoops and hurdles if I could ↩
- Happiness Charge Precure! ↩
- Middle school delinquent talk which got turned into a joke. ↩
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica ↩
- Something about a Japanese professional baseball player pitching in consecutive games followed by a rainy day and then after that. ↩
- Pre-established harmony ↩
- Hatsumode ↩
- Boson Jump ↩
- 2chan slang where they abbreviate the rest of their message because they don’t need to say what should be understood. Not really sure what the 4chan equivalent would be. ↩
- Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. Also, he uses the kanji for the verb “to come” and the first two “kons” mean “to not come” while the “koi” meant “to come” which corresponds to his joke. ↩