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Dec 6th, 2014
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  1. Volume 8
  2.  
  3.  
  4. “Eh… Ah, my bad, seriously was I intrudin’? My bad, my bad! I’ll be goin’ on right ahead. Right, Irohasu?”
  5.  
  6. Tobe was flustered as he spoke and when he turned to look at Isshiki, she wasn’t there.
  7.  
  8. That’s because Isshiki had already found her spot next to me.
  9.  
  10. So fast! Irohasu so fast! Freaky!
  11.  
  12. “Senpai, what’s wrooong? Ah, are you fooling around?”
  13.  
  14. She spoke in an airy manner with a grin on her face. Those words were common to say when you came across your upperclassman in the city. But oddly enough, it had some impact.
  15.  
  16. Because somehow, it sounded like she was saying “you sure have some courage to be forgetting about my request and going out to have fun with girls instead, huh”. No, no, I really didn’t’ forget, okay? And as for your request, I already did think it over in my own way so…
  17.  
  18. “Uh, it’s not like I’m fooling around or anything…”
  19.  
  20. As I thought about how to explain myself, Isshiki gripped my sleeves and looked at me with upturned eyes resembling a small animal. What the heck? She sure was cute, wait a second, how problematic.
  21.  
  22. As I grew suspicious of her, she continued to pull at my sleeve. An unexpected force caused me to drop my shoulders and I leaned slightly forward.
  23.  
  24. When I did, my face descended to just about Isshiki’s height. Isshiki, who was right next to me, made a perky smile. Her lightly pink, shaking lips began to move.
  25.  
  26. “But really, who is that woman? Ah! Your girlfriend perhaps? Eh, but wait, there’re two of them… How are they related, hmm?”
  27.  
  28. Scary… You’re really scary.
  29.  
  30. How were you making such a happy smile with that coldhearted voice of yours…?
  31.  
  32. “Nah, well, you know…”
  33.  
  34. As I pondered about how I should answer to defuse the situation, Hayama called out to Isshiki.
  35.  
  36. “Iroha, sorry. I actually had him come with me.”
  37.  
  38. “Aaah, so that’s how it is~. Ah, I’m actually about to go somewhere too, would you like to go together?”
  39.  
  40. She quickly let go of my sleeve and made a turn in the direction of Hayama. She was surprisingly forceful, wasn’t she?
  41.  
  42. Around there was Tobe who was trying to call Isshiki over. Thank goodness I was freed from her grasp…
  43.  
  44. “C’mon Irohasu. We should get goin’ already. Yeah?”
  45.  
  46. “You two were in the middle of shopping right…? Okay, Iroha, Tobe. I’ll catch you two later.”
  47.  
  48. Hayama softly raised his hand and Isshiki did the same and waved back while cutely going “daaang”.
  49.  
  50. “Okaaay. See you later then.”
  51.  
  52. Isshiki then waved her hands at me.
  53.  
  54. “Next time we meet senpai, please fill me in on the details, okay~.”
  55.  
  56. “…She really is something.”
  57.  
  58. As I saw them off, I blurted out my impressions. Having heard that, Hayama made a bitter smile.
  59.  
  60. “Yeah. She really is a handful.”
  61.  
  62. “You don’t say…”
  63.  
  64. Oh? You bragging? Ah? So I was thinking, but Hayama said something surprising.
  65.  
  66. “So Iroha acts like that around you too, huh…?”
  67.  
  68. “Huh?”
  69.  
  70. I asked him, not understanding what he meant. Suddenly, Hayama made a serious face.
  71.  
  72. “…It’s not like she only does it with me, but Iroha meets with a lot of people and she tends to want to show off her cute side. I’m sure she thinks that she has a certain image of herself she has to protect. I’m sure she wants to be loved. That’s why it’s rare for her to show off her honest side like that.”
  73.  
  74. Doesn’t that just mean she didn’t want me to like her that she was able to show her true colors…?
  75.  
  76. -----
  77.  
  78. “Haa..”
  79.  
  80. Once again, she let out a deep, flaunty sigh. And then, Isshiki glanced at me.
  81.  
  82. “Senpaaai, does it have to be me that does this~?”
  83.  
  84. “Well, look, you don’t want to be the president, right… Also, there isn’t anyone else that would help me with this, so while we have time, we should do this one by one…”
  85.  
  86. When I replied, Isshiki made a puffy, sullen look. You sure are pushy…
  87.  
  88. “…Well, I guess so. But writing these down is really hard you knooow.”
  89.  
  90. What I asked Isshiki to do was transcribe all the names of the retweets gathered on the fake accounts printed into a listing onto the directory list of endorsements. What a pain…
  91.  
  92. But transcribing names really was a simple and boring job. I thought that as well while working with her.
  93.  
  94. Thanks to that, for how boring it was, Isshiki would tip it over with idle chatter. Or maybe it was a defensive measure against how awkward it was to be with me so she figured she had to talk to take control. So it wasn’t like she was having fun talking to me.
  95.  
  96. -----
  97.  
  98. “Well, but, if it’s something of that level, I don’t think it’ll be that much of a problem. So it should be okay…”
  99.  
  100. Those were some scary final words she snuck in at the end there… If she was in front of Hayama instead, she probably wouldn’t behave like this. In many cases, there were a lot of times when a woman who showed an opening to another man was simply because they were not targets for their affection and just letting their guard down instead of actually inviting them (self research). Then there were also many other cases where it wasn’t so much the case that the woman had feelings for the guy because she was acting alert, but rather, she, in fact, just hated the guy instead (self research).
  101.  
  102. Isshiki continued her chatter to tide over the boredom.
  103.  
  104. “But like, senpai, you got along with Hayama-senpai?”
  105.  
  106. “Nope, not at all. That was just a coincidence. I was told by my senpai to be his escort, that’s all.”
  107.  
  108. “Ah, then, senpai, let’s go out and have fun together. We’ll invite Hayama-senpai too and go together.”
  109.  
  110. “No, I’m not going to go…”
  111.  
  112. Exactly how many times were people going to use me as an excuse to go somewhere? It wouldn’t be weird for me to be laid out with kombu and skipjack tuna at this rate.
  113.  
  114. kombu and skipjack tuna at this rate.
  115.  
  116. Still, this was convenient for me since I was going to start up a conversation by bringing up Hayama eventually. With the conversation heading in that direction, it’d make it easier to ask things.
  117.  
  118. “You know, about Hayama… what do you think of him?”
  119.  
  120. I reflexively asked in a vague way. For the innocent young maiden Hikigaya Hachiman, it was just a tad bit too embarrassing to say the words “like”. As if the way I vaguely asked was realistically creepy, Isshiki’s mouth hung open and she lowered her head in a fluster.
  121.  
  122. “Huh? W-What are you doing? Are you making passes at me? I’m sorry, it won’t work out. There’s someone I like.”
  123.  
  124. The way she rejected was incredibly natural. Instant kill… What is this girl, Ramen Man?[26] I haven’t even started fighting yet…
  125.  
  126. “That’s not it… I’m simply asking you what you thought about him.”
  127.  
  128. “Mmm, what do I think huh~? As far as I’m concerned, he’s very up my alley, you see.”
  129.  
  130. “Aah, right, up your alley huh, alley…”
  131.  
  132. “I just think it’d be kinda good so for now I’d make a mov..., I’d want to try holding hands or something, you seeee.”
  133.  
  134. She was just about to say “make a move” didn’t she…? This sneaky bitch…
  135.  
  136. -----
  137.  
  138. “Times like those are when you can consult with Hayama. If you want, you can get him to help you too. He’ll basically be attending to you for the whole year. You could even talk to him over lunch after club or something and even have him send you home too.”
  139.  
  140. After I laid everything out in one breath, Isshiki blinked in surprise.
  141.  
  142. “…Senpai, could it be that you’re really smart?”
  143.  
  144. “Pretty much.”
  145.  
  146. But in exchange, I was malicious with a bad personality.
  147.  
  148. Isshiki suddenly let out a sigh that was a cross between a bitter smile and a regular smile.
  149.  
  150. “Well… If I’m getting this much support, I guess it can’t be helped~. And your suggestion is pretty charming as well… And I’m not too fond of my classmates laughing at me from behind too…”
  151.  
  152. Isshiki cut off her words there and showed an extraordinarily malicious smile.
  153.  
  154. “I’ll get on board with you, senpai.”
  155.  
  156. It was a mysterious thing.
  157.  
  158. I couldn’t help but think that this smile was much cuter.
  159.  
  160. -----
  161.  
  162. When she saw me walking down the hallway, Isshiki gasped with a smile on her face. She waved her hands slightly in front of her chest.
  163.  
  164. I softly returned a greeting with just my neck and hurried forward.
  165.  
  166. “Senpaaai!”
  167.  
  168. When I did, Isshiki called out with a mushy voice.
  169.  
  170. This had to be that. That pattern where I would turn around because I thought I was the one being called, but when in reality, it was another senpai instead.
  171.  
  172. As I thought that, I disregarded her voice and when I began to walk again, the sound of tapping footsteps came from behind. When I turned around, Isshiki was coming after me. She pouted with a sullen look.
  173.  
  174. “Why are you ignoring mee?”
  175.  
  176. “Well, I thought you were calling someone else… Already on the job starting today?”
  177.  
  178. When I asked her, Isshiki puffed her chest out proudly.
  179.  
  180. “That’s right… Well, at first, I thought it wasn’t going to go well at all though.”
  181.  
  182. At first, she really did show a face of confidence, but as she neared the end of her sentence, that liveliness of hers grew weaker. Well, she did get swept into being the student council president with the development of events. Being anxious was reasonable and she’d probably amass quite a few failures.
  183.  
  184. But the failures she would go through from here on were definitely things you could do over, things that could be recovered. That’s why she didn’t need to fret. Feeling a little envious of that, I reflexively smiled.
  185.  
  186. “Well, there isn’t a student who is expecting anything of the student council, so why not just take it easy?”
  187.  
  188. “What’s that supposed to mean…?”
  189.  
  190. She looked at me with super spoiled eyes. But it’s not like I was expecting anything of her either… It’s just, well, if I were to pass some appropriate, encouraging words for her brand new start, then…
  191.  
  192. “…Next year, my sister’s going to enroll here.”
  193.  
  194. “Huh? Wait, the entrance exams aren’t even over yet.”
  195.  
  196. When I spoke, Isshiki shook her hands and gave me a look, “what in the world is this person saying?" "Shaddup, I’ve already decided that Komachi passing was a done deal."
  197.  
  198. “So make it a good school.”
  199.  
  200. “…”
  201.  
  202. Isshiki’s mouth hung open. After that, not blushing and not acting flirtatious in the least, with her fluffy voice, she threw both her hands forward as if forcing back my words.
  203.  
  204. “What are you doing? Are you making passes at me? I’m sorry, you’re aiming too high. It’s creepy too and not possible.”
  205.  
  206. …The reason she rejected me this time was different than last time, wasn’t it?
  207.  
  208. “You know you’re a lot better when you talk honestly… I’m pretty sure Hayama would like you more that way.”
  209.  
  210. “Eh, really? Where’d you get that info from?”
  211.  
  212. Isshiki’s eyes suddenly sparkled as she took the bait. It’s nothing like that. I was simply just saying that compared to that character she made up for herself, it was a lot better. But explaining that was a pain, so I decided that I would deal with her indifferently and leave the premises.
  213.  
  214. “I just get that feeling. Well, do your best with whatever.”
  215.  
  216. “Okay~. Then again, that’s not it! Right now, we’re in the middle of remodeling the student council room. Do you want to see, senpai?”
  217.  
  218. Remodeling huh… Was remodeling the student council room really a thing…?
  219.  
  220. Isshiki grabbed my sleeve and pulled it. This was probably that. She was probably thinking of getting me to help her, huh…
  221.  
  222. -----
  223.  
  224.  
  225.  
  226. Volume 9
  227.  
  228.  
  229. While Isshiki unwillingly went along with my zone press, she didn’t forget to throw in begrudging words.
  230.  
  231. “It’s because of what Senpai said that I became president, you knooow. I want you to do something.”
  232.  
  233. -----
  234.  
  235. “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.”
  236.  
  237. While listening to my explanation, Isshiki’s eyes narrowed as she hummed while thinking, but quickly nodded.
  238.  
  239. “…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.”
  240.  
  241. No, you didn’t have to correct yourself, okay?
  242.  
  243. “Okay, we’re good then, right?”
  244.  
  245. “Yes!”
  246.  
  247. When I checked her with one last time, Isshiki energetically responded back.
  248.  
  249. -----
  250.  
  251. “Actually, what happened with Hayama? This is the perfect time to ask him for help, no?”
  252.  
  253. When I asked, Isshiki blushed slightly and looked away from me.
  254.  
  255. “…It’s actually really troublesome so I thought maybe I really shouldn’t bother Hayama-senpai with it after all.”
  256.  
  257. So you’re okay with bothering me instead…? Well, whatever.
  258.  
  259. 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.
  260.  
  261. But right after I was impressed, Isshiki cackled with a devilish smile.
  262.  
  263. “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?”
  264.  
  265. “Aah, I see…”
  266.  
  267. -----
  268.  
  269. 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!
  270.  
  271. 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.
  272.  
  273. “Okay, senpai, let’s meet at the front gate after this. I’ll be right over there.”
  274.  
  275. “Eh, we have to start today…?”
  276.  
  277. When I said that, Isshiki had an apologetic face.
  278.  
  279. “I’m sorry, there isn’t that much time left…”
  280.  
  281. 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.
  282.  
  283. “…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…”
  284.  
  285. “Huh?”
  286.  
  287. 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.
  288.  
  289. “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.”
  290.  
  291. “Aah, over there, huh?”
  292.  
  293. 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.
  294.  
  295. Well, I’ll confirm the other details here and there later. For now, let’s leave the school.
  296.  
  297. “Got it. I’ll get ready and then head over there.”
  298.  
  299. “Okay. That being the case, I’ll be in your care.”
  300.  
  301. Isshiki grinned and bowed. That’s what I mean by being sly. Jeez.
  302.  
  303. -----
  304.  
  305. I sat there in a daze and coming out from the convenience store on the other side was Isshiki. In her hands were seemingly heavy bags. Upon noticing me, she trotted up to me.
  306.  
  307. “I’m sooorry for making you wait. I had to do a little shopping…”
  308.  
  309. Isshiki let out a breath as if the convenient store bags were heavy.
  310.  
  311. “…No, that’s fine.”
  312.  
  313. As I answered her, I turned towards Isshiki and extended out my hand. When I did, for some reason, Isshiki softly avoided my hand and looked at me fixedly. She tilted her head unsure of the meaning behind what I did.
  314.  
  315. “Huh?”
  316.  
  317. “What’s with that irritated face of yours? Wasn't that your appeal to have me hold the bags for you because it was heavy just now?”
  318.  
  319. Hearing that, Isshiki rubbed her hair and softly averted her gaze from me. Her face was slightly blushed as if she was surprised or confused.
  320.  
  321. “Haa… Aah, no, I was just being myself there…”
  322.  
  323. Ah, that’s right, huh? In her case, she tended to see guys only as laborers so I ended up thinking that was the kind of appeal she was doing. See, it’s just like how Tobe naturally became the errand boy.
  324.  
  325. Isshiki froze up for a moment, but she suddenly poised herself with a sudden realization and took a step away from me.
  326.  
  327. “Ha! Could it be that you were making passes at me just now, I’m sorry, for an instant that made my heart skip a bit, but now that I think about it rationally, it really wouldn’t work out.”
  328.  
  329. “Aah, I see…”
  330.  
  331. Just how many times will I have to be rejected by this girl…? Even her rejection was becoming a hassle now…
  332.  
  333. Still, if that was enough to make her heart skip a beat, then she had better be careful because she wouldn’t even be able to go on trips peacefully. There’s no way your heart would skip a beat while the flight attendant onee-san on the plane carried up your luggage. It wouldn’t, right…? No, it definitely would (flight attendant correction). No, wait. It didn’t have to be a FA since a blue-collar onee-san would make your heart skip a beat too… As expected, women with physical careers were wonderful! (aspiring house husband correction).
  334.  
  335. “Well, whatever.”
  336.  
  337. I wholly ignored what Isshiki said and snatched the bag out of her hands.
  338.  
  339. “Ah… Thank you very much…”
  340.  
  341. Isshiki squeezed the sleeves of her cardigan and vigorously bowed her head. Thanks to that, I couldn’t get a grasp of what her expression was like, but her unexpected, polite words of gratitude made me feel embarrassed.
  342.  
  343. “…It’s fine. It’s just a part of my duties.”
  344.  
  345. If she was insistent in expressing her gratitude every time for something like this, eventually, she’d end up adopting Komachi’s habit of saying “thank you so much onii-chan, I love you”, darn it. My intention was to tell her indirectly not to make a fuss out of it, but in the next instant, I quickly regretted it.
  346.  
  347. “Waaa! Sooo reliable! If that’s how it is, then I’ll be counting on you next time ♪.”
  348.  
  349. She linked her fingers in front of her chest and suddenly made a radiant smile.
  350.  
  351. -----
  352.  
  353. When she said that, Orimoto looked like she lost interest and quickly left my side to her original place. Isshiki returned as if she tagged in. Isshiki fixedly stared at Orimoto closely and slipped out.
  354.  
  355. “Senpai, there was someone you knew?”
  356.  
  357. “Yeah. Well, just a classmate from middle school.”
  358.  
  359. “Heeh…”
  360.  
  361. Although Isshiki inquired about her, she didn’t look particularly interested as she sat down and began spreading out the snacks that she brought.
  362.  
  363. -----
  364.  
  365. “Senpai, please have a seat over here~”
  366.  
  367. “Eh, I’m fine with just the corner…”
  368.  
  369. Despite saying that, Isshiki wouldn’t let go of my sleeves. I tried to pull away from those hands that had me caught, but Isshiki continued to hold onto them. What’s with this strength? The way she was holding onto me was so cute, but I couldn’t even pull away at all…
  370.  
  371. “C’mon, c’mon, it’s going to start, you knooow~”
  372.  
  373. She pulled on my sleeves even more.
  374.  
  375. “Okay, okay. You’re going to pull them off.”
  376.  
  377. -----
  378.  
  379. She was particularly tactful in that area herself. She was a cute first year girl and she was treated quite well.
  380.  
  381. “You got pretty close to them.”
  382.  
  383. “Mm. Well, I guess so.”
  384.  
  385. Isshiki placed her index finger on her chin and groaned as she tilted her head. She then let out a “aha” with a smile.
  386.  
  387. “…Wait! You’re the one that taught me that, senpai. That a younger girl looking to be taught was cute.”
  388.  
  389. “I don’t remember teaching you that…”
  390.  
  391. -----
  392.  
  393. Hiratsuka-sensei let out a short sigh and alternated looks between me and Isshiki.
  394.  
  395. “Still, Hikigaya and Isshiki, huh…? A rather interesting pairing.”
  396.  
  397. “What’s that about…?”
  398.  
  399. Being stuck together wasn’t that interesting to us. But Isshiki looked like she thought the same way as she made a slightly dissatisfied face while groaning. Aren’t you being a little mean, Irohasu…?
  400.  
  401. Hiratsuka-sensei looked at our faces and amusingly laughed.
  402.  
  403. -----
  404.  
  405. “Seeenpai!”
  406.  
  407. Along with the voice was a light strike that hit my back. But even without turning around, I knew who it was. There was only one person who would call me senpai aside from my little sister Komachi who would also do this kind of thing. It could only be Isshiki Iroha.
  408.  
  409. “Yeah.”
  410.  
  411. I answered as I turned around and the owner of the voice was Isshiki Iroha as expected. Isshiki puffed her cheeks in discontent as she lightly glared at me.
  412.  
  413. “Isn’t your reaction a little too weak…?”
  414.  
  415. “I mean, you’re just too sly, mmkay…”
  416.  
  417. Besides, I was used to this because of Komachi anyway…
  418.  
  419. “Oh c’mooon, that’s just me being honest with you, duuuh.”
  420.  
  421. Isshiki pressed on her cheeks with one hand and acted shy. Really, you didn’t have to go through the trouble of doing that so slyly… When I looked at Isshiki’s hands, Isshiki was holding a bag with snacks and pet bottles today as well.
  422.  
  423. I extended out my hand wordlessly indicating to her to hand it over.
  424.  
  425. Isshiki had a slightly surprised face by my suddenly extended hand, but after a chuckle, she handed over the bags. She then spoke teasingly.
  426.  
  427. “Then again, I think you’re being pretty sly there yourself, you knooow…”
  428.  
  429. “Oh c’mooon, that’s just me being honest with you, duuuh.”
  430.  
  431. Wasn’t that dreadful? My onii-chan skills ended up being activated automatically. If this got me conscious, it’d so embarrassing that my hands would start sweating. Ah, I was conscious of it already so now my hands were suddenly sweaty.
  432.  
  433. -----
  434.  
  435. “Ah, senpai.”
  436.  
  437. “Hey.”
  438.  
  439. I answered back by slightly raising my umbrella as well.
  440.  
  441. “Are you going to buy snacks today too?”
  442.  
  443. “Nope, it doesn’t look like there’ll be a conference today.”
  444.  
  445. “Aah, that’s right.”
  446.  
  447. As Isshiki said, a conference wasn’t going to be held today. Yesterday, the time was delegated for examining the raised opinions and thinking of the pros and cons to each one as well as a unifying proposal for implementing them practically. So there wouldn’t be any catering today. It looked like my job of carrying the bags of snacks wouldn’t be necessary as well.
  448.  
  449. As I thought about that, Isshiki peeked under my umbrella and made a wicked smile.
  450.  
  451. “…Fufufu, what a shame. Not being able to score some points with me and all.”
  452.  
  453. “Like there’d be something that simple that could score points with you.”
  454.  
  455. While we had that senseless conversation as we walked, a vinyl umbrella that could be described as plain or even boorish hurried our way. Under the umbrella was the shameless fluttering of the hems of a Kaihin Sogo High skirt.
  456.  
  457. “Oooh, what’s this? It’s Isshiki-chan and Hikigaya.”
  458.  
  459. Raising her umbrella high, the one who called out to us was Orimoto.
  460.  
  461. “Hellooo.”
  462.  
  463. “Heeya. You seeee, I was talking with my friends so now I’m kinda late.”
  464.  
  465. As usual, Orimoto’s take on the distance between people was close. From there, she lined up next to Isshiki and began chatting with her amiably. Of course, Isshiki didn’t show a moment of displeasure in her face even in the face of that attitude. She made a bright, amiable smile and chatted back.
  466.  
  467. We continued walking in the rain as I listened to them from the side.
  468.  
  469. Just when the conversation between the two was about to stop, Isshiki had a realization and spoke.
  470.  
  471. “Speaking of which, weren’t you an acquaintance with senpai?”
  472.  
  473. “Yep, yep, we were in the same middle school.”
  474.  
  475. When Orimoto answered, Isshiki made a glance at me.
  476.  
  477. “So even senpai had someone he was close with, huh?”
  478.  
  479. That reaction of hers had me in a pickle. But similarly, Orimoto’s words that she responded with sounded a bit troubled.
  480.  
  481. “Rather than close, umm… Well, just a little.”
  482.  
  483. As if her ambiguous words felt out of place, Isshiki’s eyes glittered and she bit onto it.
  484.  
  485. “Oh, what’s this, what’s this? This vague wording of yours?”
  486.  
  487. Orimoto made an “oops” face and sent me a look.
  488.  
  489. I couldn’t blame her. It’s not like Orimoto and I were close, so for her to come out with an ambiguous wording like that was indicative of the truth.
  490.  
  491. But Isshiki wouldn’t let that opening slip by. She made a grin and pulled at my sleeve.
  492.  
  493. “Senpaaai, what’s goooing on?”
  494.  
  495. Stop it, stop pulling. Our hands are kind of touching too, you know, it feels kind of soft and it’ll make me really conscious of it, so stop it!
  496.  
  497. I was weakened by her incessant begging assaults which may have been her strategy to get me flustered and as I avoided her hands, I ended up slipping something out.
  498.  
  499. “Well, a lot happened back then…”
  500.  
  501. “A lot…”
  502.  
  503. Isshiki repeated after me and she then looked at Orimoto. Orimoto who was at a loss of how to answer stuttered, but brushed it off with a laugh.
  504.  
  505. “Well, it’s just a story from the past, see.”
  506.  
  507. That answer was a little surprising. I was expecting her to turn my past confession into the butt of jokes again, but she turned her face away from Isshiki and only spoke those words vaguely.
  508.  
  509. I won’t say I didn’t mind if they spoke about the past, but I only thought it’d be unavoidable if it did happen which made me interested in Orimoto’s change.
  510.  
  511. Isshiki looked like she wanted to ask more and having noticed that, Orimoto faced me and quickly changed the topic.
  512.  
  513. “Putting that aside, Hayama-kun doesn’t come out to things like this, huh?”
  514.  
  515. The word “Hayama” caused Isshiki to twitch in response. The amusing, broad grin that Isshiki had on her face the entire time was now stiff.
  516.  
  517. “…Are you an acquaintance with Hayama-senpai toooo?”
  518.  
  519. Isshiki’s voice was slightly deep. Scary. She may have been smiling with her face while going “ufufu”, but this had to be that; her eyes were too serious that she was smiling in an effort to not show it…
  520.  
  521. “We went out for a bit before, you see.”
  522.  
  523. “Hoh, went out…”
  524.  
  525. Isshiki picked out a word from what she said and sized up Orimoto. Crap. This was going to turn into something troublesome.
  526.  
  527. -----
  528.  
  529. I wasn’t sure what he was referring to. I tilted my head, questioning what he meant. Judging from what my expression was like, Hayama made a smile.
  530.  
  531. “You’re doing a lot of things after getting asked for help by the student council right? Take care of Iroha.”
  532.  
  533. “Yeah? So if you knew about it, then you should help her out.”
  534.  
  535. “It’s not like she asked me. The one who she asked was you.”
  536.  
  537. -----
  538.  
  539. As I pushed my bike along, the two followed me from behind, walking normally. After progressing along for a while, Isshiki could be seen at the entrance of the community center. It looked like she was diligently waiting for me today.
  540.  
  541. I locked my bike at the parking area and Isshiki noticed us heading towards her. Isshiki made a surprised face. Her gaze went back and forth between the three of us.
  542.  
  543. “Yui-senpai and Yukinoshita-senpai…? W-What’s wrong?”
  544.  
  545. “Aah. I asked them for help.”
  546.  
  547. After a very brief reply, I went inside to the community center. Isshiki nodded as she followed me. And following behind were Yukinoshita and Yuigahama.
  548.  
  549. “Haa, I see… Ah, er, that would be a big help.”
  550.  
  551. Isshiki showed a perky smile to Yuigahama and Yukinoshita. Yuigahama answered “yahallo” with a smile.
  552.  
  553. “Iroha-chan, looking forward to working with you!”
  554.  
  555. After Yuigahama said that, next to her who nodded in emulation was Yukinoshita.
  556.  
  557. “It looks like the situation isn’t very good.”
  558.  
  559. “Yes, that’s riiiight.”
  560.  
  561. As she said that, Isshiki handed me the convenience store bags. As I thought “she sure is quick to get used to this, huuuh?”, I obediently took them off her hands.
  562.  
  563. When I did, Yuigahama and Yukinoshita stopped their feet.
  564.  
  565. “……”
  566.  
  567. “……”
  568.  
  569. When I turned around to the disappearing sound of footsteps, both of them were fixated on those convenient store bags. Yuigahama was taken aback while Yukinoshita was looking at it with a cold gaze.
  570.  
  571. “What is it…?”
  572.  
  573. “No, it’s nothing.”
  574.  
  575. “Ah, uh huh. Right, right, it’s nothing.”
  576.  
  577. When I asked them, Yukinoshita abruptly removed her stare and Yuigahama slightly waved her hands in front of her chest as she laughed.
  578.  
  579. With those uncomfortable stares, we climbed up the stairs. Yuigahama looked around restlessly as if she was looking at something rare while Yukinoshita continued in disinterest.
  580.  
  581. -----
  582.  
  583. Hayama leaned against the fence of the plaza and let out a small sigh.
  584.  
  585. “…I guess I did something bad to Iroha.”
  586.  
  587. “How selfish. If you’re going to feel guilty afterward, then you should’ve just dated her instead of turning her down.”
  588.  
  589. When I told him, Hayama made a troubled smile.
  590.  
  591. “That’s impossible. You have a bad personality to be saying that even though you know what’s going on.”
  592.  
  593. “Pretty much.”
  594.  
  595. I had a lot of confidence concerning that point. The corners of my mouth distorted into an unpleasant smile reflexively.
  596.  
  597. Even so, Hayama didn’t get particularly upset and looked at me with eyes that looked stricken with melancholic grief.
  598.  
  599. “…Did you know? About why Isshiki confessed to me?”
  600.  
  601. “No, there’s no way I’d know that.”
  602.  
  603. “I see…”
  604.  
  605. But the way Hayama said that was as if up until now, he was conducting himself in a way so that Isshiki wouldn’t confess to him.
  606.  
  607. “Did you know? About Isshiki, er… her feelings or whatever.”
  608.  
  609. “…Yeah.”
  610.  
  611. His answering voice was gloomy. There wasn’t a hint of conceit or arrogance in it. Only the feelings of regret were mixed in it. So that’s how it was…
  612.  
  613. Hayama was someone who couldn’t maintain a relationship with someone unless he stayed ignorant to their feelings. When a person’s feelings didn’t get across, then they would distance themselves and leave. That wasn’t entirely Hayama’s fault, but in order to avoid it, Hayama had to sidestep those feelings altogether.
  614.  
  615. That was something clear as day during that incident during the field trip as well. And it was that time that I became sympathetic to that kind of thinking. I ended up understanding it. It was something I couldn’t call a mistake. However, I knew that to avoid things was something that would turn into hurting others.
  616.  
  617. “If you knew, then isn’t it just a lack of resolve on your part?”
  618.  
  619. When I said so, Hayama lightly shook his head.
  620.  
  621. “…That’s not it. I’m honestly happy about Iroha’s feelings. But that’s not it. They were probably not for me but…”
  622.  
  623. Hayama’s staggering voice didn’t make any sense. Still, Hayama didn’t continue his words even as I waited and jumped into a different topic.
  624.  
  625. “…You’re pretty amazing. The way you just change the people around you… I’m sure Iroha was the same way too…”
  626.  
  627. “Haa? What’s with the sudden praise?”
  628.  
  629. When I said that, Hayama made a dry laugh.
  630.  
  631. -----
  632.  
  633. “Isshiki, which station are you getting off at?”
  634.  
  635. I asked her, but Isshiki didn’t respond. Instead, she pulled at my blazer’s sleeve.
  636.  
  637. She then silently held out her bag of souvenirs.
  638.  
  639. “Senpai. It’s super heavy.”
  640.  
  641. “It’s because you bought too much…”
  642.  
  643. I took the bag as I spoke. When I did, Yuigahama suddenly smiled.
  644.  
  645. “…Uh huh, I think that would be better.”
  646.  
  647. “Isshiki-san. Make sure to be very careful.”
  648.  
  649. Yukinoshita-san? Didn’t that kind of mean something else?
  650.  
  651. When we arrived at Kaihin-Makuhari, the two got off the train. Isshiki and I who were left stayed on the train for another three stations.
  652.  
  653. The station we would get off was the Chiba harbor. From there, we would transfer to the monorail. There weren’t very many customers using it at this time right now, so the only ones riding were just us.
  654.  
  655. The monorail proceeded through the night city brilliance. That same floating sensation from staying suspended at a high altitude I wasn’t used to was as if I was riding another attraction.
  656.  
  657. Isshiki muttered with a sigh as she looked out the window.
  658.  
  659. “Haa… I guess it was no good…”
  660.  
  661. “…No, you should’ve known that going at him right now wasn’t a good idea.”
  662.  
  663. My association with Isshiki was short and that applied to Hayama as well since it wasn’t like they were really friendly. Even so, I didn’t think those two would go through the trouble of closing their distance like that.
  664.  
  665. With her stare still directed at the window, Isshiki spoke while looking down on the city.
  666.  
  667. “…I mean, what else could I do? I was all excited and stuff.”
  668.  
  669. “That’s surprising. I thought you weren’t the type of person to get pushed around by the atmosphere like that.”
  670.  
  671. When I told her, Isshiki’s face that was reflected on the window turned into a small smile.
  672.  
  673. “I’m surprised too. I thought it was going to be a lot stiffer too.”
  674.  
  675. “…Yeah, pretending to have a mind full of love makes you pretty clever or something.”
  676.  
  677. As I tried to continue talking, Isshiki suddenly turned her head and interrupted me.
  678.  
  679. “I wasn’t talking about myself… I was talking about senpai.”
  680.  
  681. “Ha?”
  682.  
  683. Again, she flung the conversation in a different direction. I thought we were talking about Isshiki, but where did the conversation fly to? Or was she talking about another senpai? Then again, why was I the only one she called senpai, anyway…? Was it because she couldn’t remember my name?
  684.  
  685. As I thought about various things, Isshiki fixedly looked at me. As I thought, she was talking about me. Isshiki laughed and showed a smile.
  686.  
  687. “There’s no way I wouldn’t be moved after I saw that.”
  688.  
  689. “Saw what?”
  690.  
  691. When I asked her, Isshiki corrected her posture seriously and sat up straight. She slowly looked at my eyes and spoke.
  692.  
  693. “…I’m starting to want something genuine too.”
  694.  
  695. My face turned red to those words. That’s right. When we left the club room that time, we happened to meet Isshiki. I reflexively pushed against my brow.
  696.  
  697. “You were listening…?”
  698.  
  699. “Your voice was leaking out like normal, you know.”
  700.  
  701. When Isshiki nonchalantly replied, I spoke back with a pathetic voice.
  702.  
  703. “…Please forget it.”
  704.  
  705. “I won’t… I can’t.”
  706.  
  707. Isshiki answered with an expression that was more earnest than normal.
  708.  
  709. “That’s why I thought I’d try going forward.”
  710.  
  711. I don’t know what genuine thing she wanted. It wasn’t necessarily the same thing as the illusion that I had. In the first place, that might not have existed. But Isshiki Iroha most certainly wished for something. I thought that was very noble of her.
  712.  
  713. I couldn’t really think of any worthwhile relieving words, but I looked for the words to tell Isshiki.
  714.  
  715. “Well, you know. It’s basically that. Don’t worry about it. It’s not like it’s your fault anyway.”
  716.  
  717. When I did, Isshiki blinked her eyes in puzzlement. After that, she scooted away to take some distance from me.
  718.  
  719. “What are you doing? Are you making passes at me while I’m heartbroken? I’m sorry, it’s still not possible just yet.”
  720.  
  721. “That’s not what I meant…”
  722.  
  723. Just how did she rationalize that…? Was this some kind of anagram of “don’t worry about it” or something? When I was taken aback, Isshiki coughed and closed the distance she took.
  724.  
  725. “Besides, it’s not over yet anyway. In fact, this is a more effective way of approaching Hayama-senpai. People will sympathize with me and the people around me will act reserved too, you knooow?”
  726.  
  727. “…R-Right. So it’s something like that.”
  728.  
  729. It’s like, as expected of Isshiki, huh…? When I spoke both impressed and surprised, Isshiki laughed as she puffed out her chest and continued on proudly.
  730.  
  731. “That’s what it is. Besides, even if you’re turned down, there are things you just have to do. And there’s also that. They’ll become more conscious of the person they rejected you know? They’ll think they’re pitiful, right? It’s normal not to feel apologetic…That’s why, this defeat was just part of the preparations. It’ll be used for next time’s advancement… And, um… I’ll have to try my best.”
  732.  
  733. She slipped out a small weep and tears formed at her eyes.
  734.  
  735. You couldn’t tell someone who was trying their best to try their best. Komachi said “I love you” was good enough, but that was something restricted to my little sister. I thought maybe I should pat her head once, but that too was only for my little sister.
  736.  
  737. “You’re pretty amazing.”
  738.  
  739. The only thing I could say was this much. When I did, Isshiki looked at me with moist, upturn eyes.
  740.  
  741. “It’s all your fault senpai that I turned out this way.”
  742.  
  743. “…No, that’s true for the issue with the presidency, but for other things...”
  744.  
  745. But without listening to the end, Isshiki moved her face closer and whispered into my ears.
  746.  
  747. “Please take responsibility, okay?”
  748.  
  749. And then, my junior made an impish smile.
  750.  
  751. -----
  752.  
  753.  
  754.  
  755. Volume 10
  756.  
  757.  
  758. “Yukinoshita-senpai, so your birthday was on January 3rd, huh? By the way, my birthday is on April 16th, senpai.”
  759.  
  760. “I didn’t ask…”
  761.  
  762. Why are you even here in the first place, hmmm…?
  763.  
  764. She tilted her head in doubt and her flaxen hair shook. She greedily tapped her lips with the fork in her small hand, covered with the baggy sleeve of her cardigan worn under her sloppy uniform.
  765.  
  766. Isshiki Iroha was here at the Service Club as though it’s the most natural thing in the world.
  767.  
  768. She took one portion of the four, also took a paper cup, and drank the tea. Wasn’t her adaptability a bit too high? Was she a member of TOKIO8 or something? She looked like she could survive on a deserted island…
  769.  
  770. Isshiki sipped her black tea and caressed the paper cup with the baggy sleeves of her cardigan.
  771.  
  772. “Speaking of which, please call me to the shrine visit, too!”
  773.  
  774. “And why do I need to do that?”
  775.  
  776. Speaking of which, I have no way of contacting you, though? Or are you saying to do it telepathically? Is there some kind of no service charge benefit? Or is it that? Are you using this as a chance to enact your strategy of standing over me mentally by getting my contact info? Too bad for you! I won’t fall for something like that! I’ll have you know Hachiman knows all about how thinking about things too deeply meant digging your own grave!
  777.  
  778. I thought arbitrarily, but Isshiki was distracted, not thinking too deeply about it and sighed.
  779.  
  780. “I mean, everyone went to the shrine visit, right? Then, that obviously means Hayama-senpai will be there.”
  781.  
  782. “No, he wasn’t there with us…”
  783.  
  784. “Of course. In that case, never mind then,” said Isshiki. She turned her face away and killed the conversation. Iroha ga Kill!9 Killing things in a single stroke… The only things that felt similar to that were the anime audience and Battousai the Manslayer10.
  785.  
  786. Well, Isshiki’s feelings were understandable. I could get why she’d think Hayama would be present if Miura and the others were. What I didn’t get was why Isshiki was at our club.
  787.  
  788. “So, why are you here?”
  789.  
  790. “Ehhh, I mean, right now, there’s nothing to do at the student council.”
  791.  
  792. “There’s plenty of stuff, not that I’d know. Go to club then. You’re still the manager, aren’t you?” I said.
  793.  
  794. Isshiki lightly tapped my shoulders. “Now, now, what’s the big problem? Ah, I know. I’m actually here to pick up the luggage we left here during Christmas.”
  795.  
  796. “You totally made that up just now.”
  797.  
  798. The reason sounded so out of place that it could be portable.
  799.  
  800. “Haa…”
  801.  
  802. Yukinoshita sighed and next to her, Yuigahama had a wry smile. Good grief, Irohasu… Everyone was astonished and astonished that we were going to become Aguirre’s JAPAN11, but Isshiki looked unperturbed. She was so unperturbed that I wanted to turn her into a Keroyon12-like doll and place her in front of a pharmacy.
  803.  
  804. Finding it awkward that everyone was focused on her, Isshiki blew at her tea that wasn’t even hot and tried to play it off.
  805.  
  806. “Ah, speaking of which.” Isshiki suddenly spoke up and looked at Yukinoshita. Yukinoshita tilted her head in response and Isshiki smiled. She then blurted something outrageous. “Yukinoshita-senpai, are you dating Hayama-senpai?”
  807.  
  808. “Come again?” Yukinoshita tilted her head even further making it almost at a ninety degree angle.
  809.  
  810. Behh, how is this girl able to step on land mines so nonchalantly…? What’s with this Hurt Locker13…? She went and asked her directly without leading up to the question, too. That’s like an old-timer pitcher in baseball who knew the Masakari style14 where he’d throw a fast straight ball without any signs.
  811.  
  812. No, but this was Isshiki. She definitely asked on purpose. And the reason why she was at this club was also to validate the rumor.
  813.  
  814. “Isshiki-san…”
  815.  
  816. Yukinoshita’s voice was cold. Behind that smile enveloped with the thin veil of the northern lights were eyes as transparent as the ice carved from the North Pole.
  817.  
  818. Isshik’s shoulders and voice shook after seeing that face to face.
  819.  
  820. “Y-Yesssss!” Isshiki pulled back her body as she made the abrupt reply and then hid behind me.
  821.  
  822. Hold it missy, don’t go using people as shields.
  823.  
  824. Yukinoshita turned to Isshiki who was peeking from over my shoulders and glared her down.
  825.  
  826. “…It’s obviously not true.” Yukinoshita asserted her clear rejection.
  827.  
  828. -----
  829.  
  830. While waiting for it, Yukinoshita rummaged through her bag. After cheerfully taking out a glasses case, she silently slipped on the glasses.
  831.  
  832. When I met her gaze behind the lenses, I instinctively pretended to yawn and looked away. At the corner of my eyes, I could see Yukinoshita casting her face downwards.
  833.  
  834. “Ah, Yukinon, you look really good in that!” said Yuigahama.
  835.  
  836. “R-Really?” Yukinoshita gently touched the frame of her glasses and made a probing glance in my direction.
  837.  
  838. “…Well, yeah… that’s true…”
  839.  
  840. I felt somehow itchy having my present used so early that I could only manage a hazy reply.
  841.  
  842. “…Thank you.” She said with a small voice and turned her head away in seeming disinterest.
  843.  
  844. I nodded my head back silently and sipped the tea from my teacup.
  845.  
  846. Isshiki curiously looked at Yukinoshita. “Yukinoshita-senpai, did you always wear glasses?”
  847.  
  848. “…They’re PC glasses.” Yukinoshita mumbled her answer in difficulty without removing her eyes from the laptop’s monitor.
  849.  
  850. Not looking the least interested, Isshiki let out a lax voice while rubbing her paper cup. “Ohhh.”
  851.  
  852. That sure was one apathetic response…
  853.  
  854. But I did appreciate her indifference.
  855.  
  856. Had the conversation gone any further, I was sure I was going to squirm in embarrassment. Just look at me now I was fidgeting and my eyes were swimming all over the place!
  857.  
  858. I adjusted my seat, oddly unable to keep still. Sitting diagonally opposite of me, Yuigahama muttered. “Maybe I should wear glasses too…”
  859.  
  860. “You don’t even look at computers,” I said.
  861.  
  862. Yuigahama turned indignant.
  863.  
  864. “Maybe I don’t! No, actually, I am looking! I totally am! Yukinon, let me see the computer, too!” Yuigahama moved her seat next to Yukinoshita and peered at the computer. “Oh, it looks like we have mail.”
  865.  
  866. -----
  867.  
  868.  
  869.  
  870. Isshiki took a step backwards. “…Whoa. Senpai, could it be that you get good grades normally?”
  871.  
  872. “What’s with the ‘could’……? Eh? ‘Whoa’? Did you just go ‘whoa’? Just what exactly do you take me for…?”
  873.  
  874. Then, Isshiki made a perky smile and spoke as if saying something good. “Oh, I can’t answer that… See, I’m just not very good at saying bad things about people, you knooow?”
  875.  
  876. Like I’d know. Also, that’s pretty much an insult already… What’s with this girl…? As I was watching Isshiki, she also looked at me in admiration.
  877.  
  878. “Senpai, I knew you looked super smart, but you get good grades like normal too, hmmm?”
  879.  
  880. Mmhmm, don’t tell me, Iroha-chan. Are you acting stubborn because you don’t want to think I’m smart, hmm? Your choice of words is just a little crude, okay?
  881.  
  882. “Yeah! That’s so true. You see, Hikki’s grades are good only in humanities.”
  883.  
  884. Yuigahama clapped her hands in approval and boasted.
  885.  
  886. Why are you acting proud…? Also, please don’t emphasize “only in humanities”.
  887.  
  888. Next to her, Yukinoshita brushed away the hair at her shoulders and made a bold smile. “That’s true. He does have rather good grades. But they aren’t good enough to take the top.”
  889.  
  890. Why are you acting proud…? Okay, I could see why. Her grades were better than mine, after all…
  891.  
  892. “So that means senpai’s going with the humanities?”
  893.  
  894. “Pretty much.”
  895.  
  896. Isshiki replied with a totally unconcerned “ohhh” when I answered. Don’t ask me then. Isshiki then cleared her throat as if indicating she was going into the main topic.
  897.  
  898. -----
  899.  
  900. “But would Miura do something roundabout like this? Putting Isshiki aside.”
  901.  
  902. “Senpai, what exactly do you take me foooor…?” Isshiki glared at me in discontent.
  903.  
  904. Well, you were the one who used me as a pretense to ask about Hayama’s career path earlier…
  905.  
  906. But it looked like there were things only fellow girls could understand as Yuigahama was moaning in contemplation. Ah, by the way, she was still hugging Yukinoshita, who was completely at her mercy.
  907.  
  908. “That makes sense… I mean she was pretty worried about it in class, so maybe… Yumiko’s quite the maiden in her own way, too…”
  909.  
  910. “I knooow! Look at me, I’m a total maiden too, right?” Isshiki nodded and sought my agreement.
  911.  
  912. -----
  913.  
  914. Once we cleared the initial stage of figuring out our course of action, Isshiki stood up after a short sigh.
  915.  
  916. “Okay, I’m going to head back now. Thank you for the tea. Yui-senpai, if you learn anything, please let me know, too!” Isshiki said. She bowed her head and was going to leave the room.
  917.  
  918. I called to her back. “Hey, your stuff.”
  919.  
  920. “Ah.”
  921.  
  922. Isshiki turned back from where she was and played it off with a “teehee” smile. She then picked up the stacked cardboard box at the corner of the room.
  923.  
  924. “Here we go, oomph.”
  925.  
  926. Nothing was more dangerous than Isshikii’s staggering footing as she carried the cardboard box in her arms. Before I knew it, I had extended my hands out and took the boxes from Isshiki. My Komachi training skill had automatically activated. I really couldn’t deactivate this skill at all…
  927.  
  928. “Th-Thank you very much! Also, can I ask you to carry them to the student council room, too?”
  929.  
  930. “Yeah, yeah…”
  931.  
  932. Well, guess I’ll have to. I turned around at the front of the door to inform Yukinoshita and Yuigahama first before leaving and the both of them had stopped entirely and were staring at the cardboard box.
  933.  
  934. “……”
  935.  
  936. “……”
  937.  
  938. Huh? Why are you guys quiet?
  939.  
  940. “…Alright, I’m going to carry these over real fast,” I said.
  941.  
  942. Then, Yukinoshita twitched in response and began cleaning up the tableware, still silent. Again, why are you quiet…?
  943.  
  944. When she was nearly done, she turned to Yuigahama. “…Shall we stop here for today?”
  945.  
  946. “R-Right! Let’s all carry the stuff over then!” Yuigahama answered and stood up noisily from her seat. She grabbed her backpack and started out the room. Yukinoshita carried her bag around her shoulder and slowly walked. Isshiki was watching them in confusion.
  947.  
  948. “Ummm… we don’t really need that many people…”
  949.  
  950. “…I’m locking the room, so can you please leave the room?”
  951.  
  952. “Y-Yesss.”
  953.  
  954. Yukinoshita urged her with a cold smile and Isshiki frantically went out the room.
  955.  
  956. -----
  957.  
  958. “Well, that’s definitely, definitely senpai for you.”
  959.  
  960. Why’d you emphasize the first syllable twice? Am I going to die two times?
  961.  
  962. “And why are you here again?” I looked at Isshiki.
  963.  
  964. Isshiki placed the paper cup she had in her hand on the table, straightened her collars, brushed the hems of her skirt, and while she was at it, fiddled with her bangs, and sat formally.
  965.  
  966. “I’m here today this time for a proper consultation,” said Isshiki, looking completely serious.
  967.  
  968. But the glimpse of her collarbone from her straightened collars, the fluttering of her skirt filling my mind, and her groomed bangs, the power of her upward gaze had increased. She looked far from appearing serious.
  969.  
  970. She had my attention for just an instant, but I strengthened my heart and removed my gaze from Isshiki, feeling maybe just a little regretful. I’m not falling for that…
  971.  
  972. “If it’s for the student council, I’m not helping anymore.”
  973.  
  974. “…Oh, okay.” Isshiki muttered dejectedly.
  975.  
  976. It sounded like she clicked her tongue afterwards, but I was just imagining it, right? Irohasu?
  977.  
  978. Watching our interaction, Yukinoshita cleared her throat. “Surely you didn’t come all this way just so you could have us assist you, right?”
  979.  
  980. There was a pressure in her voice as she smiled. Her tone was so soft, yet icy chills ran up my spine. Isshiki promptly straightened her posture.
  981.  
  982. “O-Of course! I was just kidding! I’m making sure to do my work!”
  983.  
  984. “Then, what’s your business?” Yukinoshita asked, sighing with exasperation from seeing Isshiki’s attitude.
  985.  
  986. Yuigahama mediated. “Iroha-chan’s probably curious about Hayato-kun’s career path and came to ask about it, right?”
  987.  
  988. “That’s my Yui-senpai! That’s exactly why I’m here! Buuuut, that’s not the only thing.”
  989.  
  990. Yukinoshita looked at her to go on. Isshiki lightly placed her hand on her chin and contemplatively spoke. “It’s liiike, there’s been an increase in people making passes at Hayama-senpai.”
  991.  
  992. “Passes?”
  993.  
  994. “Well, confessing to him, basically. Even if it doesn’t go well, they do it just to check, like an appeal of the sort.” Isshiki apathetically answered Yuigahama’s question.
  995.  
  996. The incident from yesterday then came to mind. Of course, I didn’t mention to Yukinoshita or Yuigahama what I witnessed, so they seemed to have been thinking about other things.
  997.  
  998. “What do you mean by ‘check’?”
  999.  
  1000. “Is that really gonna work as an appeal?”
  1001.  
  1002. Yukinoshita and Yuigahama looked at Isshiki in puzzlement. Isshiki cleared her throat and sat up straight. Then, she turned her seat towards me.
  1003.  
  1004. Isshiki let out a brief, but passionate breath and gazed at me in earnest. “Senpai… is there… anyone you’re dating right now?”
  1005.  
  1006. Her voice faintly trembled, her speech erratic, and her cheeks flushed. Peeping out from her excessively long sleeve was her thin wrist that was surprisingly white. She timidly squeezed the ribbon at her bosom with the hand of that wrist, the creases of her shirt exhibiting an air of excitement.
  1007.  
  1008. For only a slight moment, her moist eyes quivered.
  1009.  
  1010. She had struck me at such an unexpected angle that I could feel my heart beat faster. I swallowed my breath to calm it down.
  1011.  
  1012. “No… not really…” I spat out with a rasping voice.
  1013.  
  1014. The room went dead still.
  1015.  
  1016. Naturally, I was quiet, but so were Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. In that silence, Isshiki made a mean-spirited smile. “See, something like this, yeah!”
  1017.  
  1018. “Th-The problem’s obviously the way you said it! Right, Hikki?”
  1019.  
  1020. ……No, that appeal didn’t exactly not hit home, yep. No actually, it really did hit home. Isshiki Iroha, you’re pretty darn good.
  1021.  
  1022. “Hikki?”
  1023.  
  1024. I turned to Yuigahama and Yukinoshita when I was called and I was being eyed with a dull look.
  1025.  
  1026. “…And just why are you quiet?” Yukinoshita pleasantly smiled.
  1027.  
  1028. Stop that. That smile of yours is really scary, you know.
  1029.  
  1030. “W-Well, you know, yeah. I get Hayama’s situation now. I totally get it.”
  1031.  
  1032. They went to check the validity of the rumor and while they were at it, they tried confessing too. Failure notwithstanding, it’d serve as a trigger for the two of them to grow closer, or something to that effect.
  1033.  
  1034. Maybe this was one of those appendix scenario additions that unlocked the route for a character you couldn’t conquer at the beginning…? Or was it some kind fan disk that added a scenario of giggling and screaming, hmm??
  1035.  
  1036. Anyway, it could be said that this was also the doing of the rumor.
  1037.  
  1038. “So, what did you want to discuss?” I asked.
  1039.  
  1040. Isshiki acted overbearing. “I want to know how to get ahead of my rivals!”
  1041.  
  1042. “Right…”
  1043.  
  1044. She had some guts for not giving up this late in the game. I replied half-impressed, half-disgusted, and half-disinterested. Oh wait, that’s 1.5 times the regular amount.
  1045.  
  1046. Isshiki interpreted that as a response from me and arbitrarily continued her story. “Considering the situation right now, it’s a chance for me. People noooormally give up after confessing, right? Hayama-senpai seems totally sick of the confessions too, so that’s where I can come in as a ‘safe tile’7 and ambush—I mean, I can, like, give him some plump comfort!”
  1047.  
  1048. That’s quite the forced correction there… What the heck did plump comfort even mean? Isshiki wasn’t exactly plump either… It’s the immaturity Isshiki gave off from her flash image that was her charm… Ah, that’s not what this was about. I didn’t care enough about what’d happen between Hayama and Isshiki that I stopped listening halfway through.
  1049.  
  1050. I looked over at the other two wondering if they were listening and they were intently doing so.
  1051.  
  1052. “Safe tile…”
  1053.  
  1054. “Ambush…”
  1055.  
  1056. Yuigahama and Yukinoshita muttered in repetition and sent Isshiki a serious gaze. It’s like, they were so serious that I could feel the room temperature instantly plunge… It’s most certainly not calm!8
  1057.  
  1058. Their stares, however, weren’t noticed by Isshiki. It’s because she was looking outside the window, likely watching the activities of the soccer club on campus.
  1059.  
  1060. “So, I was thinking some kinda place where we could just take it niiiiice and easy just to relax or something…”
  1061.  
  1062. Isshiki’s profile highlighted by the glare of the waning sun appeared somewhat anxious, but calm.
  1063.  
  1064. Although her tone was cheerful, she was showing concern for Hayama in her own way.
  1065.  
  1066. Oh. So you aren’t being half-hearted about this, after all. I’m pretty sure you’d win over most guys if you showed them that side of yours…
  1067.  
  1068. “Doesn’t sound like a bad idea,” I said, finding myself smiling.
  1069.  
  1070. Then, Isshiki’s face energetically lit up. “I know, right! So, that’s why I’d like to talk about places you’d recommend!”
  1071.  
  1072. “Uh, isn’t that your specialty?” I asked.
  1073.  
  1074. You’re definitely asking the wrong people. Yuigahama could fall back on her friends for information, but Yukinoshita and I didn’t give off the image that we’d know any decent places to go out and have fun.
  1075.  
  1076. Isshiki swelled her cheeks. “I already tried all the things I came up with before! That’s why I’d like an opposite approach this time.”
  1077.  
  1078. “Ahh, right…”
  1079.  
  1080. Amazing. Her ability to act was really amazing. Are you sure you aren’t a member of TOKIO?
  1081.  
  1082. I sat there impressed and Yuigahama, sitting diagonally opposite of me, pressed her index finger against her chin and tilted her head. “So basically… you want us to think of a place where you can casually hang out without worrying about people?”
  1083.  
  1084. “Simply put, that’s exactly it, yep.” Isshiki nodded her head while answering Yuigahama’s question.
  1085.  
  1086. Yukinoshita sighed gently. “…Well, I suppose that’s fine.”
  1087.  
  1088. Her smile made her appear much more like an older sister than normal. Seeing Yukinoshita as someone who she could get along easily right now, Isshiki made a happy smile.
  1089.  
  1090. “Thank you very much…! Soooo, with that out of the way, senpai, what do you think?”
  1091.  
  1092. “Why ask me…”
  1093.  
  1094. I drew a blank. I was thinking about suggesting to her to just go to Destinyland for now, but that might’ve been a bit much for someone who was rejected there…
  1095.  
  1096. But well, I had no idea what Hayama’s interests were, but wouldn’t he just act as if he’s having fun regardless of what they did and where they went? Of course, whether he’s actually having fun or was just acting was another story.
  1097.  
  1098. While I was thinking, Yuigahama leaned forward from her seat. “Hi-Hikki, where do you think is good? Um, you know, just for reference…”
  1099.  
  1100. “We’re completely different, so I don’t think it’ll serve as one, you know,” I said.
  1101.  
  1102. Yukinoshita chuckled. “That’s true. You’re like his antithesis, after all.”
  1103.  
  1104. “Right?”
  1105.  
  1106. “Yes, absolutely.”
  1107.  
  1108. It felt like there was some form of ridicule in her agreement, but it didn’t offend me or anything.
  1109.  
  1110. In reality, it wasn’t wrong to call me his antithesis. I was quite proud of being a fairly high spec holder, but it was nowhere close to Hayama… But for me to be proud of this level of spec as if I was some kind of small accessory was I worthy to be Hayama’s antithesis?
  1111.  
  1112. Really, what the heck, what’s with this small-fry accessory…? But hey, girls liked small accessories and sundries, so maybe small-fry accessories might surprisingly be popular! Gotta be positive! Such and such thoughts occupied my head.
  1113.  
  1114. Yukinoshita lightly coughed. Then, she turned her face away and added hastily. “…But, it’s exactly because you’re his antithesis that I believe it will serve as a reference. If you take the exact opposite of the view of an antithesis, that can be said to be nearly the correct answer. The opposition of opposition is agreement, right?”
  1115.  
  1116. “Don’t you mean the opposite of opposite isn’t necessarily the truth…?”
  1117.  
  1118. That’s some funny logic. Opposition of opposition is agreement… this isn’t Bakabon’s Papa9 or anything… was what I wanted to say, but Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were attentively staring at me, waiting for my answer.
  1119.  
  1120. Well, um, if you keep staring at me so seriously, I’m not going to be able to come up with anything, so please stop.
  1121.  
  1122. “…Uh, I’ll try to think about it.”
  1123.  
  1124. I managed to respond to them and covertly removed my gaze from them. Abruptly, I could hear a “phew” or “bleh” of disappointment and discontent.
  1125.  
  1126. “Please make sure to think it over then, okaaaay?” said Isshiki, smiling.
  1127.  
  1128. But that’s where I’m stuck though… I’m already having trouble thinking for myself, let alone for Isshiki. In fact, I’m the one who wants to ask here… Well, whatever. I’ll think it over next time.
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