(Note about the title: Kuri Kinton is Candied Chestnuts and Sweet Potatoes. It symbolizes economic fortune and wealth and it’s an important part of the New Year meal to bring good luck and prosperity for the new year.)
Table of Contents
I was reading a book in the library until the appointed time.
Since entering high school, I had stopped going to the library by a remarkable degree. I wasn’t exactly an avid reader, but hanging out in a library would make me look like one in the eyes of the general public. If in pretence of being wicked you kill a man, wicked is what you are. Even a deceitful imitation of wisdom will place you among the wise.1 Then again, I wasn’t pretending to be wicked, wise or even an avid reader. This empyreal appearance that can be seen at the end point of this accumulation of denials is the petit bourgeois, the form of being that I wholeheartedly aspire towards.
After taking a glance at the clock on the wall, I decided that it was about time to leave, and stood up from my seat. While I was returning the novel I had been reading to its shelf, I noticed some red light seeping through the blinds. As summer was ending, the days were becoming shorter, and the sun was already setting. And there was this phenomenon that occurs a few times each year. The sunset was a slightly discomforting shade of red that was painful on the eyes.
The red light filled the corridor, lighting up the long, thin school building from one end to the other. I walked down that corridor while paying heed to a piece of paper in my pocket.
That piece of paper had been inserted into my desk in my classroom without my knowledge, and it was an invitation to a classroom after school. I didn’t know the sender, nor did I know their motive. In the first place, I wasn’t clear as to whether it was even addressed to me. It was something I could easily ignore, but it was an invitation that someone else had taken great pains to send out. Isn’t it just like a petit bourgeois to timidly show my face and check it out?
Since it was approaching the end of school hours, there were few students in the corridor. It had been five months since I became a second-year student. The month was September, and while I wasn’t so sure about the temperature, it had certainly become autumn in spirit.
By staying that long in school, the number of faces I recognized also increased. For example, the guy who I just walked past was a familiar face. Was he in the student council, or did he achieve excellent results at his club? I recognized his face, but I couldn’t remember who he was, and of course, nor did I know his name. He probably didn’t even know who I was, which is why we passed each other uneventfully. It was as if neither of us existed.
Also, it seemed that I was finally getting accustomed to the indifference to social obligations that I had been struggling to acquire for a long time. In school, I could confidently say that I had become the type of existence that someone else would say, “Oh yeah, there’s that guy,” about. It was not unnatural for me to be present, but it was also not unnatural for me to be absent.
If so, what was the deal with someone calling me out?
I retrieved the piece of paper from my pocket.
When I first saw it, I’d thought it was a scrap of paper, but I was mistaken. There were perforations on one side of the paper, and some effort had been spent to cut it out cleanly from a notebook. At the very least, I could gather that the person who sent me the invitation was someone who carried a notebook around.
The message written on the note was short.
|Please come alone to the classroom after school at half past five. I’ll be waiting.|
The words definitely could not be considered as well-written, but were not difficult to read. As for whether it was the handwriting of a boy or the handwriting of a girl, I could see it being possible either way. The text was blue, and written by a water-based ball-point pen. The words had a supple quality about them, but based solely on my impression, I felt that a delicate boy had written them.
There were also a few things I could understand from reading the text.
It said, “Come to the clasroom”, but there are dozens of clasrooms in Funado High School. Even so, the note did not indicate which classroom to go to, obviously telling me that it was referring to my classroom, 2A. It only said “after school” without specifiying the month or date, because it obviously meant today.
Hypothetically speaking, if the sender of that note was a student from class 2B and they had wanted to convey the message that it was not Classroom 2B, they would have written, “Come to Classroom 2A” or “Come to this classroom”. Also, it would be difficult to confirm that the note got into my hands by the end of today, so they would have written a date.
That is why the person who called me out was probably a classmate.
Another guy approached from the other side of the red corridor. This time, we knew each other. He was my classmate for two years in a row already. With his sociable personality, he was frank to anyone, and he had talked affably to me when it came to events where the class had to participate as a whole. As reciprocation for his kindness, I had also answered with a pleasant smile. But now, both he and I passed each other without looking each other in the eye. I could not even remember his name. Was he called Iwayama or Iwate? All I could remember was that he had “Iwa” in his name.
My gaze dropped to the piece of paper in my hand again.
It was a short message, but had quite some meaning packed into it. The words “alone” and “I’ll be waiting” were written in hiragana, and it wouldn’t be bad if that had been the intention, since it made the invitation give off a softer impression. Also, not relying on kanji and using hiragana could mean that the sender was used to writing messages out by hand.
Additionally, the part I was most curious about the word “alone”. If they wanted me to come alone, what could that mean?
The probability that they wanted to absolutely avoid being seen by others was almost zero. Even if I did go alone, meeting at a classroom after school is definitely not enough to avoid being seen by others. If they had something questionable to talk about such that they even had to hide the fact that we had met, then it would be far more appropriate to choose a location outside of school.
That’s right, I remember receiving a memo in middle school that also said something along the lines of “Come alone”.
Just recalling it made me shake with trepidation. I’d stuck my nose into someone else’s problem, thinking I could solve it on my own. I was called out several times, all related to that incident, with the challenge letters generally saying, “Come alone”. However, I never actually followed their instructions. One time, the specified location was the parking lot of a demolished bowling alley, a place that I would normally never go to. Well, it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
But that was all in the past. I had no idea what their purpose could be in this case. Thanks to that, I was utterly confused over such a short bit of text.
I, Kobato Jougorou, am merely a little citizen who will not be embarassed no matter where I go. Just a second-year student of Funado High School whose smile blends in with the class, and who does not remember the names of the people there.
Why in the world did someone like me have to receive an invitation?
Wanting to find a clue to deduce an answer to that question, I fiddled with the piece of paper again. It just felt discomforting to thoughtlessly accept the invitation of that anonymous person without knowing their identity. That said, there wasn’t particularly much to read from a single piece of paper. In the end, I decided to play it by ear. I probably wouldn’t be ambushed in school, anyway.
The sunset lost a little of its brightness. Without my knowledge, signs of night had snuck into the red light. I could see one female student in front of my destination. That was also someone I knew, although we had never been in the same class since we’d entered high school. She had a good social disposition, and seemed to have quite a lot of friends. She looked like an underclassman or middle school student, and to some even an elementary school student, but she was a fully-fledged student in the same year as I.
Of course, we passed without looking each other in the eye.
The discussion quickly reached a deadlock, and started going around in a circle. The same suggestions, the same denials were repeated again and again, with only changes in the words used to express them. I knew how to put an end to that unproductive exchange. All I had to do was accept their persuasion and shut up. However, I just couldn’t give up for some reason. Why won’t they listen? I wondered irritably as I spoke again.
“Is what I’m saying that weird? That story already appeared in the newspapers, so those who know it, know it. Why can’t we publish it, then?”
“Calm down, Urino.”
President Doujima looked at me without unfolding his crossed arms. With his blocky head and wide frame, the stern president gave off the feeling of a thick wall towering ahead whenever he folded his burly arms. However, I was not frightened. In fact, I was irked by his wearisome countenance.
“I am calm. Are you even listening, President?”
“Yeah, I am.”
The body that had sunken deep into the seat slowly started straightening up and moving to the front. President Doujima put force into his words, as if saying, “This is the last time.”
“You’re the one who doesn’t understand. Let me sum it up for you. We publish a school newspaper in this club, not the regional edition of the national newspaper. Do you think that we can interview the police or get comments from the victims? If we get into trouble by any chance, who’s going to take responsibility? Your parents? Our advisor, Miyoshi? Or me?
“I understand your feeling of wanting to cover some incidents in this city, but that’s an overreach. If you have to say something to the masses no matter what, how about the readers’ column in the morning paper? I think there’s a ‘Young Voices’ corner.”
He was not saying it sarcastically, but was wholeheartedly recommending that course of action to me. Even so, that made me all the more irritated.
If we needed to listen to the police, we could just go for it. We could also obtain the victims’ comments if we so wished. Why was the President being so indecisive?
“As I said! About this article…”
I slapped the newspaper laid open on the desk two or three times with the palm of my hand. Written on it was an article with the title “Delinquent Group Kidnaps One Of Their Own”.
“There is information that the kidnapped person is a student in this school. It’s a school topic, isn’t it? Why can’t we cover it, then?”
President Doujima was apparently done with arguing. He replied with a sigh.
“I understand your motive, Urino. If we publish this story, you’ll use it as a precedent to bring in more stories from outside of school in the coming month, right?”
Ulterior motive or not, I’d certainly advocated for that.
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“Ah, whatever. This is my executive decision. Or we could do a majority vote, if you like. Either way, this space will be for a follow-up report on the Sports Festival.”
I looked around the clubroom.
Some notes here, some photographs there. With everything piling up and no decent organization of items, the Printing Preparation Room had turned into a place where you couldn’t make heads or tails of anything. The Funado High School Newspaper Club, which was using the room, had a total of five members. There used to be a female senpai before the summer holidays when the third-year students retired, but now it was all guys.
Doujima Kengo, a second-year student, was the president of the club. He had a well-built body, like that of an athelete, as well as a stern face, giving him a dignified presence. However, to me he looked to be a person with conservative values, or even a coward.
Next was another second-year student, Monchi Jouji. He was not very close to us first-year students, but that said, he was not exactly friendly with Doujima-senpai, either. He had downcast eyes that made him look subservient, and always seemed to be reading a book, as if to show off. They were mostly new books on the liberal arts, those with titles like “Why is OO XX?” that you can buy for about 600 yen.
Kishi Kanta, a first-year student, was a sloppy guy whose mobile phone had a ton of straps attached to it and was continuously ringing. After school, he would make his hair stand on end, as if he had waxed it. He was the type of guy to use the Printing Preparation Room as a dressing room.
There was one more first-year student, Itsukaichi Kimiya. Kishi was unreliable, but Itsukaichi properly wrote articles. The way he would change his words based on my countenance sometimes ticked me off, but I could tell that he was a serious person. However, he was also timid.
Out of the four of them, none of them seemed to be willing to agree with me. I was all alone in Funado High School’s Newspaper Club.
I was not afraid of loneliness itself. In the first place, I’d intended to create articles on my own. However, with no sections assigned to me, there was nothing I could do. Why were they all like this? I didn’t know if I could do it well, but since it was only a schoolwide newspaper, we should be able to easily recover from failures. Did they not think this way too?
I’d lost the will to argue. All I could do after that was storm out of the clubroom in a fit of rage.
I returned to my classroom irritably, only to be met with a wry smile.
“Hey, good work on pushing aside the noren2.”
I sat down at my classmate’s desk with a flump.
“Don’t say it so unpleasantly. As if you could foresee how it would turn out.”
“I did. Even if I didn’t, I can instantly tell what happened from that face you’re making.”
“Is it really written that clearly on my face?”
That person put his thumb and index finger together with only a small gap in between them, meaning to say, “just a bit”.
Hiya Yuuto. I came to know him since we were in the same cram school in middle school, and I’d been quite happy to find that we were placed in the same class in high school.He wasn’t one to be lacking in emotions, but whenever he sat still silently, he looked as if he was holding some deep-seated worries and was in a state of melancholy. His androgynous facial features were well-proportioned even from the perspective of a fellow guy, and he often spoke with a faint, shrill voice.
However, I had my eye out for him not because of his looks, but because of his intellect.
He was always quick to understand anything by far. I had only got into Funado High School by putting in quite a lot of effort in my studies, but Hiya had passed easily by idling his time away instead of actually studying. He didn’t only achieve proficient results, but was also good at teaching others. I had been in his care quite a lot in cram school.
If he had a little more drive, he would probably be able to do something interesting. But here he was, not doing anything that would make him stand out, with a smile signifying that he would show restraint in everything on this world. He had that same smile on right now.
“I understand why you’re dissatisfied, Urino. What our Newspaper Club’s doing is certainly boring.”
“I know, right?”
I tightened my fists.
“It’s quite rare for high schools to have a Newspaper Club these days, so I didn’t have high expectations for it, but there’s nothing to do outside of imitating last year’s articles.”
“They aren’t exactly like last year’s articles, though.”
Hiya said with a shrug.
“The Newspaper Club only writes about annual events… The thing is, there’s no change in this year’s annual events compared to last year’s.”
“So it’s all the same!”
This September’s issue was focused on articles about the Sports Festival. Of course, so was last year’s, and the year before that. I understood that some parts of it couldn’t be helped. A schoolwide newspaper has to touch on the Sports Festival, after all. However, it certainly didn’t have to be totally filled with those articles. Exactly what’s so fun about writing articles when I can’t put in effort in my own way?
That was what I was dissatisfied with. There would be no changes to the paper if we only wrote about topics in school. We should expand our horizons. There was enough material, too, with that abduction case that occurred during the summer holidays. I could immediately write it if I was told to. If I did my research, I could have probably turned it into a series of articles, too.
However, my suggestion was tossed aside. President Doujima didn’t even consider it for one second. Seeing that I didn’t know how to vent my pent-up anger, Hiya looked up with a sour look on his face, as if to say, “What a troublesome guy.”
“That’s why I said it was useless.”
If I asked him why he thought it was useless, he would have smoothly laid out his reasoning, and I would undoubtedly be convinced.
No, I’d actually already noticed the futility of my actions. It had already been almost half a year since I entered this school, enough time to exact change in the direction of the club.
But not a single person in the club wished for change. I’d somehow come to understand that. However…
“Not trying at all if you think it’s useless is just like you. But as for me, I’ll try anyway.”
The edges of Hiya’s lips curved upwards.
I could tell that he was trying to mollify me. However, I was not one to be so easily influenced.
“So, Hiya, you also got through middle school in three years, right?”
“Well, that’s the national policy.”
While he was a little confused by the change in topic, his evasive style of speech did not change.
“Thankfully, I also passed in three years.”
“Did you do anything that made you go, ‘This is it’?”
Hiya frowned, his face telling me that he wanted no part of this stifling topic of discussion. Even so, I said my piece all the way till the end.
“I never did anything like that. In those three years, I studied and did club activities, and it ended just like that. I decided that I never want to repeat those three years again. When I made that decision, there was only about half a year left. You should know since you’re good at math, but there are only six half-years in a three-year duration.”
Hiya still didn’t change his evasive manner of speech.
“That’s a high-minded aspiration. But your method of joining the Newspaper Club seems a little off the mark. If you were aiming for an advancement in life, you should have attempted it with a more major direction.”
He’d hit me where it hurt. While I kept silent, Hiya waved a hand.
“Well, I’m rooting for you. I’ll always be cheering you on, no matter when.”
His manner of speech made me imagine that “no matter who” was tacked on to the back of that sentence, right after “no matter when”.
To be honest, I didn’t want Hiya’s support. I wanted him to be an ally. However, my self-esteem did not allow me to say that aloud, so once again, all I could do was walk out of my classroom in a rage.
My intuition had been off the mark. I’d thought that the note had been written by a male, but the person waiting for me after school in my classroom was a female student.
The sunset had lost the intensity that was painful on the eyes, and it was promptly going dark. That female student was standing by an open window. The wind outside was apparently quite strong, for her summer scarf was swaying in the wind that was coming in.
I knew that girl, she was a classmate of mine. My deduction had been spot on in that regard. However, I didn’t know her name. As I wondered why she would call me out, the girl spoke.
“Five thirty, right on the dot. You’re quite punctual, huh.”
It was a smooth, mature voice that I’d heard before. It sounded like it came from someone who had been in the same class as me since the beginning of high school.
I didn’t think it would be anything dangerous, but I was relieved when I found that my companion was just one female student. The thought of me brazenly accepting the invitation, only to get denounced by multiple people, had certainly crossed my mind.
“It’s a long-awaited invitation. Of course I’ll observe the civilities.”
I replied, causing the female student to laugh, close the window and walk a few steps towards me.
“Sorry for getting you to wait for me for so long.”
“The time flew by in the blink of an eye.”
Silence followed, so I gave her a prompt, “So, what did you call me for?” The female student took one step, two steps forward, then placed her hands together in front of her body.
“There’s something I want to ask of you.”
I didn’t think that that anyone would want to ask the current me about anything, since I’d already stopped sticking my nose into others’ troubles. I could feel a fretful ripple somewhere in my heart.
… But, well, perhaps I could lend my wisdom if I’m asked to. So, what did she want to know? Something a little more complicated would be good. When it comes to other people, I would want them to bring me difficult requests that are not immediately solvable.
However, her question was wholly unexpected.
“Kobato-kun, you’ve broken up with that girl, right?”
I immediately understood who she was referring to.
Osanai Yuki, who had been my comrade in becoming a member of the petit bourgeois until recently. We neither had a romantic relationship nor a codependent relationship, but instead had a symbiotic one. Osanai-san and I would look out for each other, to prevent the other from wandering off the path of the petit bourgeois.
However, that relationship had been dissolved in the summer holidays. Only know did I think of it as natural. I would go by my own way, and Osanai-san by hers, but we would become petit bourgeois, slowly and steadily. But how did this classmate know?
I gasped. There was only one thing that came to mind.
Breaking up with Osanai-san was the result of an incident, one that involved a lot of people, some of them even breaking the law. I thought they were all rounded up, but…
As the link formed in my head, I shrank back. Could that girl be part of that group?
I had unconsciously assumed a defensive posture, but all the female student did in response was to widen her eyes.
“What’s the matter? Don’t be so surprised.”
“I’m not surprised, but I’m wondering, how did you know?”
“…I could tell just by looking. I’ve never seen the two of you together since the summer holidays ended. My friends said the same thing, too.”
That was it?
I observed the expression on her face, but it seemed that she meant it. That was, indeed, all. I felt embarassed for having such an overblown reaction, so I tried to laugh it off.
“I see. You’re right, you can certainly tell from that.”
“So, you two broke up, right?”
“Yeah, we broke up.”
I answered with a grin. In response, the female student slightly tightened her fists for some reason. I still didn’t know how the two of them were related, or if they were related at all. Wondering if I could figure it out, I was about to slip into thought, when the girl whose name I didn’t even know spoke in a manner one would take when asking what’s for dinner.
“So, will you go out with me, then?”
“Let’s go out with each other.”
I properly looked at her for the first time.
She was tall compared to Osanai-san, although you probably wouldn’t find a girl shorter than Osanai-san unless you went to an elementary school.
It was quite dim in the classroom, so I couldn’t read her expression, though she seemed to be putting on a stiff smile. She had quite a long face, and long, wavy hair with curls. Funado High School did not have very strict rules, but that didn’t mean it had no checks on hairstyles at all. She probably had naturally curly hair. The corners of her eyes were low, or perhaps you could say that she had drooping eyes. She also seemed to have quite a thin neck.
I didn’t think her to be an extremely flashy person, but she was definitely not plain. She had a fairly pretty appearance, and seemed to be enjoying her youth to a moderate extent. That was the feeling she gave off, anyway… In other words, she was probably the type to live the high school life I was envious of deep in my heart.
Her eyes sparkled impishly.
“So, Kobato-kun, your given name is Jougorou, right?”
“Can I call you Joe? That sounds cool, doesn’t it?”
I grinned and immediately made a declaration.
I firmly refused. The girl withdrew, but my answer seemed to have swallowed up the topic of going out with her. Could that be part of her strategy?
Of course, even I knew that being confessed to by a girl is an honor.
As a male high school student who subscribes to the beliefs of the petit bourgeois, there was no need to refuse as long as there were no exceptional reasons.
Thus, I started going out with that girl.
But there was just one problem.
“I’ll be in your care from now on, Kobato!”
Even after being addressed like that, I could not reply to her. I would have to start by finding out her name. But what should I do?
That should be settled with the name tag on her shoe locker, I believe.
Since I’d stormed out of both the Printing Preparation Room and my classroom, there was nowhere for me to go. That should be a good time for me to head home, but there was still something I had to do. I’d borrowed a book from the school library.
It was titled somewhere along the lines of “The Rules of Writing A Proper Article”, and was written by a former journalist. I’d borrowed it thinking that it could be used as material to convince the Newspaper Club, but it was just filled with grumblings, and turned out to be absolutely useless. I’d given up reading when I was only a third through. Since the deadline had arrived, I had to return it.
It was already quite late. I’d never been to the library at this time, so I was a little surprised. It was almost empty, with only one male student who looked like a librarian sitting on the other side of the counter, engrossed in his book. Not wanting to be a nuisance, I left the book in the return box.
I was treated lightly by President Doujima, laughed at by Hiya, and now I was returning a book before finishing it. Nothing was going well for me today, and there was nothing that could save it. However, I got into the mood of searching for another book to replace the one I’d just returned.
That said, there weren’t many books in a high school library that could be useful to a first-year student in the Newspaper Club. I finally found a book titled “How to Write A Good Article”, so I looked for a seat for me to read the book a little before deciding whether or not to borrow it. Placing my bag by a nearby table, I sat down and was about to open the book, when I noticed something. Someone’s bag was on the other side of the table. It was a white bag with the school crest, as per Funado High School’s regulations.
In this virtually empty library with so many available seats, I’d chosen to sit opposite someone else. That could totally give them the wrong idea. While I was regretting my decision, I did not intentionally change my seat. It was no big deal, I thought.
However, after seeing the bag’s owner return with a book in their arms, my breath was taken away.
That was someone I knew.
I knew her, but she probably didn’t know me. That person was a girl who seemed to be acquainted with President Doujima, as she’d visited the Newspaper Club a few times already.
The first time I saw her, I thought she was really small. She had pretty black hair in a bob cut that somehow looked like a wig, making her give off a weird vibe. It was only later that I realized that was the exact situation to use the descriptive term “doll-like”.
The second time I saw her, I could only think that her high school uniform did not suit her at all. She’d come over to ask something of the president, and all she’d said was, “About that thing…” As might be expected of the head of the Newspaper Club, President Doujima had a diverse circle of acquaintances. I’d assumed that the girl had an appointment due to some article.
It was only the third time that I saw her in a different light. That occured right after the end of the summer holidays, so it wasn’t that far back.
Only President Doujima and I were in the Printing Preparation Room. It was not yet time to start on the next issue of the newspaper, and since I’d subtly expressed my disatisfaction towards the direction of the Newspaper Club, there was nothing we wanted to say to each other. The silence in the clubroom was deafening. With my notebook spread out in front of me, I was doing homework or something like that. President Doujima was holding his arms and staring into space, probably thinking about something. He had a bandage on his right hand. He’d apparently gotten an injury during the summer break.
That girl unexpectedly opened the door to the Printing Preparation Room. She walked directly to the side of President Doujima, who was sitting on a folding chair. Without any sort of preface, she brought her lips to his ear.
It seemed like she whispered something to him.
I couldn’t make out the contents of her whisper, but at that moment, a chill ran down my spine.
Based on just her height and facial features, she didn’t look like a student in the same grade, and instead looked like a middle school student who had snuck into a high school. For just an instance while whispering, she narrowed her eyes, and together with her supple action of crouching to meet President Doujima’s ear, caused me to feel a shiver through my body. I was unable to look away. Was I sexually attracted to her? No, that probably wasn’t it. My eyes were strangely drawn to the lack of balance in her figure, countenance and actions. Later, I learnt that she could be described by the word “coquettish”… but at that time, all I could do was stare with my mouth agape.
As President Doujima listened to the whisper, all he did was roll his eyeballs to the side, and never stopped folding his arms. I didn’t know if it was good or bad news, but it was certainly a long talk. Finally, President Doujima muttered, “I see,” and the female student moved her lips away from his ear.
Next, as if only noticing me for the first time, she turned her head to look at me. Her eyes, which had been narrowed earlier, now captured me directly. I could feel sweat form on my back.
The girl laughed with only her lips. She seemed to be saying to me, “This has nothing to do with you.”
When the two of us were left in the room again, I asked President Doujima who that girl was. He replied with a slightly bitter smile on his face.
“She’s called Osanai. She’s, well, somehow who’s quite hard to deal with.”
The person standing in front of me in the library after school was that Osanai-san.
“Do you have some business with me?”
She asked a question out of the blue. Only now did I realize that I had been gazing steadily at her face.
“Ah, no, sorry.”
I shifted my eyes downward. Osanai-san was obviously suspicious of me, but eventually spoke again.
“I feel like I’ve seen you before.”
“Ah, yeah, I think…”
It was good that I was sitting down. The semicircular canals of my ear were acting up, causing me to feel a little giddy.
“I think we met at the Newspaper Club.”
“At the Newspaper Club…?”
She frowned and placed her right index finger on her soft-looking cheek. However, she didn’t think for long before shaking her head.
“I can’t remember, sorry.”
“Ah, yeah, we only caught a glimpse of each other, so it can’t be helped.”
I desperately forced myself to grin, to the point that I probably looked comical. We’d stared at each other for such a long time back then, so it was awfully strange that she couldn’t remember. Then again, perhaps it was just me who thought it to be a long period of time, when in reality it was only for an instance.
Osanai spoke again.
She then placed the book she was carrying on the table. Placing both hands on the table, she asked the question again.
“So, do you have some business with me?”
That was not a gentle way of putting it, but I hadn’t been rejected outright. It seemed like she was judging the distance between us… Do girls always do this in this kind of situation? Or is it only Osanai who puts on such airs?
She’d completely misunderstood and thought that I had been waiting for her. Well, that wasn’t an unreasonable assumption.
I was about to say that I hadn’t noticed and accidentally sat down at that spot.
However, that seemed like a wasted opportunity.
There was no one in the library except for the student librarian sitting on the other side of the counter, not even looking up. Osanai was staring at me a couple of feet away. There was no way I could have predicted such a coincidence, so I didn’t have the resolve to do it. However, if there’s one unique trait of Urino Takahiko, it’s being able to muster up resolve at any time.
Osanai was waiting for my response. Let’s say it, then. Right now.
“I was entranced by you.”
“It was since the last time we met, but it seems you don’t remember. Do you mind accompanying me if you don’t have anything to do? I wanted to try talking to you.”
That was courageous of me, if I may say so myself. Without saying another word, I even managed to put on a smile.
Osanai’s eyes fluttered. She studied my face fixedly, as if expecting me to reveal that it was just a joke or prank. If I burst out laughing here or avoided her gaze, the opportunity would vanish. I understood that, which was why I took her gaze head on.
I hadn’t noticed earlier, but it was a day with an especially red sunset.
But it was Osanai who laughed. While peeking at my eyes, she let out a short giggle.
“I don’t dislike boys who are direct.”
Strength drained from my body. I’d been acting as if it was no big deal, but I hadn’t noticed that my body had been working all the way to its limit. Osanai had laughed, and said that she didn’t dislike someone like me.
Osanai picked up the book from the table and used it to hide her lips.
“Alright, but the library is not the place for a talk. I know a good shop that has a marvelous gâteau fraise3.”
I immediately stood up.
How pathetic. I’d spoken so fluently earlier, yet this was all I could respond with now. However, I did not feel frustrated or ashamed at my failure.
That was because my mind was a blank, and I could not think of anything at all.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- These two lines are from Tsurezuregusa, or Essays in Idleness, a collection of essays written by the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenkō between 1330 and 1332. The two lines come from passage 85, which says that no one is truly honest with themselves, and however pretentious, one will be judged by their actions.
- Pushing aside the noren, or curtains at the entrance of a shop, means a waste of effort.
- Strawberry cake!