Friday, September 17, 2021

Too Many Losing Heroines! V1 Chapter 3 & Intermission

Chapter 3: A loss when the battle hasn’t even started yet – Chika Komari’s Dunkirk


Translator: Pingas


The first day of the trip is incredibly sunny.

The TV said there’s no rain in this year’s rainy season. By the way, is this even the rainy season?

The Literature Club took the train before switching to a bus. We’re at Shiroya Beach now. It’s pretty close to the hostel.

I stared at the scorching beach dazedly as I laid open the beach blanket. My brain’s getting dizzy from the intense light.

“Hey, Nukumizu. Nice work.”

The person cheerfully opening the umbrella on the beach is our long-awaited Shintaro-senpai. I owe a lot to him. Thanks to him, I can avoid an all-girls sleepover.

“Ah, what are you talking about?”

“Yanami and Yakishio. I didn’t expect you to bring two very adorable girls here.”

He looked at the changing room restlessly.

“Also, we’re suddenly here at the beach.”

“Sorry, this is all because of Yanami-san’s-“

“-Thank you so much! I mean it!”

He grabbed my hands and shook them.

“Ha? Do you really love beaches?”

“Swimsuits. It’s swimsuits. It’s very rare for us to see 4 of our club members in swimsuits, you know?”

“But those two are my classmates. I’ve already seen them in swimsuits during swimming lessons.”

“What are you saying? School swimsuits and personal swimsuits are two different things.”

Indeed, the design and exposure are different.

I’m unfazed by it. Prez shrugged helplessly.

“Listen closely. School swimsuits are mandatory. You’re forced to wear it.”

Yes.

“In other words, personal swimsuits are worn because girls like them. Can you understand the difference between these two?”

“…Please go on.”

What senpai said piqued my interest.

“Normally, girls are too embarrassed to show their shoulders or thighs. People even think of them as bitches if they show their bellies. However, with the legitimate reason of being on a beach, they’ll wear swimsuits that are not really different from underwear on their own.”

Tamaki-senpai clenched his fists and looked at the sky throbbingly.

“I can be forgiven even if we look at them. …No, it’s more like it’s impolite to not look at them.”

I see. I can’t really argue with his reasoning. This must be the so-called summer’s magic.

“I got it. I didn’t think this through.”

“Yes.”

“But I do want to ask about something you just said.”

“It’s fine. Go ahead.”

“You said school swimsuits are mandatory, right?”

“Yes, I did say that.”

“In other words, they have to show their skin unwillingly, …am I correct?”

“I see. From your perspective, this just makes PE lessons all that more charming.”

Prez nodded his head thoughtfully after hearing my opinion.

“For example, it’s like watching the animal girls listed on slave markets. You sure know a lot.”

“No, I don’t understand your example.”

I’m not on your side about this part.

“What are you two talking about?”

Tsukinoki-senpai pinched senpai’s ears as soon as she appeared.

“Ouch! By the way, Koto, you’re not in a bikini?”

Tsukinoki-senpai pinched even harder after hearing that. Prez’s screams reached a whole new level of decibel too. Looking at senpai, she’s wearing a black one-piece swimsuit with laces on the chest.

“Alright, stop messing around. Let’s play in the sea.”

Prez was brought away.

“Oh, there’s an umbrella. Thanks, Nukumizu-kun.”

“Yanami-san-“

The Yanami-san in question immediately grabbed a cup of shaved ice. Just as I was about to say something about the ice, Yanami’s pale skin immediately covered my consciousness.

She’s wearing a normal bikini- no, isn’t the exposure too high because of how normal it is?

Even though she kept eating for days, her waist is unexpectedly thin. In comparison, well, how should I put it? The parts that are actually correspondingly growing to her appetite can’t be covered by “last year’s swimsuit” anymore. It’s about to overflow.

It’s not actually about whether it’s suitable or not. All I can do is praise the gods.

“What? Are you so attracted to me in a swimsuit that you can’t say anything?”

“Eh, no, why would I? I-I’m not looking.”

Even I think that I ain’t fooling anyone. Yanami crawled into the shades of the umbrella cheerfully.

“I’ll eat before going to the sea.”

“Eh, you should come with us, Yana-chan! The sea is beautiful!”

The next girl is Yakishio. She’s holding a beach volleyball in one hand as she’s looking at the sea excitedly.

Yakishio’s in a bikini too. It’s the type without any staps on the shoulders. Even though the comparison between her tan and pale skin is a bit much, the chest part does have strings.

And, if I have to say what I can see between the chest part-

I can only praise the designer of the swimsuit. I wonder if he’ll accept an Amazon gift card.

“You too, Nukkun! Let’s go!”

“I’ll look after the luggage for a while. Yanami-san has to eat too. Yakishio-san can go ahead-“

“Oh-ho, Nukunizu-kun, are you challenging me?”

…Challenge? What? Yanami-san already finished the shaved ice before I could ask.

“Thanks for the food!”

“Eh, it’s gone?”

“Shaved ices are just drinks, Nukumizu-kun- ouch, ouch, ouch!”

Yanami recoiled as she pressed the back of her head.

“See, don’t eat cold things so quickly.”

“Are you okay? Yana-chan.”

“My head hurts…”

Yanami said that with teary eyes.

I’ve already sensed this before. This girl is a bit dumb, isn’t she?


“Yanami-san should go after your pain goes away. I’ll watch over our bags.”

“Thanks, I’m already okay. Let’s go.”

“Nukkun should come later too!”

The two girls are dashing on the beach being washed by waves. Yakishio threw the beach volleyball onto Prez’s back forcefully. Wait, isn’t this the first time they meet each other?

Just as I was engraving their silhouette into my eyes, an unusual feeling suddenly surfaced. I feel like I forgot something…

Someone kicked my back with her barefoot when I’m thinking about that.

“N-Nukimizu. Y-Your eyes are p-pretty lewd.”

Ah, I completely forgot about this girl.

Komari’s wearing a long-sleeved jacket and sat down on the blanket a bit far away from me.

“You’re not going to join them?”

“I-I’m f-fine t-to be here.”

Prez showed an unprecedented smile as he’s surrounded by three girls. It looks like he’s really happy. I think they took out an inflatable tiger whale too.

As for Komari, she looked at everyone having fun with a slightly irritated expression.

“Why don’t you go to Prez? It’s rare for all of us to be at the beach.”

“S-Shut up.”

Komari started playing with her phone in a waterproof bag. Suddenly, she said this without even raising her face.

“M-Moreover, Nukumizu, d-do you like Yanami?”

“Ah? Why?”

I’ve never thought about that. After all, that girl still loves Sosuke Hakamada, and she was rejected just a while ago.

“I-It’s because y-you two are always together.”

“Isn’t that because you can only see Yanami-san whenever you’re with me?”

Uh, is that really what people think whenever a guy and a girl are together?

We still won’t greet or talk to each other in the classroom. I guess Yakishio’s the only one who knows that we know each other.

“Also, Yanami-san and I only made contact because something happened. If this counts as liking her, doesn’t that make me like those guys who fall in love with people just because she talked to him?”

“Eh.”

Komari zipped up her jacket. I think she’s distancing herself from me even more.

“…So, what I’m trying to say is that I won’t love someone just because I talk to her.”

This girl is really impolite. At this moment, I glanced at Komari’s swimsuit under her jacket.

“Ah, you’re wearing your school swimsuit.”

“O-Only o-one day. I-I didn’t buy.”

Komari stared at me impolitely.

“I-I bet Nukumizu hastily bought your s-swimsuit, right?”

“Haha, that’s impossible. Even though it looks old-school, I bought it last year.”

“B-But the label is still there.”

What!? She got me. Komari chuckled like a little devil as she looked at me frantically searching for the label with my hands.

“…Alright, yes, I bought it on my way home yesterday.”

Damn you, Komari. I clenched my fists.

“It’s a beach party with girls, okay? Even I can be excited about it.”

Even though I don’t know whether I should say that to a girl like Komari, her despising eyes are certainly stabbing me.

“I-Isn’t swimming just something we do in lessons?”

“We’re playing, alright? Isn’t it normal to feel excited?”

“W-Well, imagine this. F-For example, you're playing with your friends.”

Well, my imagination stopped as soon as you said the word friend. Komari noticed my expression.

“W-Well, h-how about you hiring a friend.”

The normieness is immediately overflowing.

“If people ask you what do you want to play, will you choose…to play ball games?”

“No.”

I dropped that without hesitation.

“W-Water race?”

No, but.

“…Komari, you missed a big premise.”

Yanami’s having fun as the girls are sitting on the inflated tiger whale.

Yakishio tripped as she stood up. The water splashes along with laughter.

“P-Premise…?”

“If that’s a girl, and she’s wearing a swimsuit.”

This whole hired friend thing sounds a lot lewder.

“I bet I’ll play, whether it’s ball games or races.”

I stood up and made the decisive conclusion. Komari looked at me like she just saw a stinky ditch.

“W-Well, how about you leave!?”

*

I closed my eyes and spread my limbs on the scorching sand.

…Perhaps I’ll never forget about this day. Playing with girls in swimsuits when I was young. I bet this will support my lonely life forever.

Something cold is on my head. Yanami’s handing out cups for the juice to everyone.

“Remember to stay hydrated. How about our lunch?”

Yanami split the chopsticks as she said that. I can’t help but look at the yakisoba on her lap. Wait, isn’t this supposed to be your lunch?

Tsukinoki-senpai tied her hair as she looked at all of us.

“Let’s buy something and eat here. What should we get?”

Yanami raised her hand just as senpai’s asking for everyone’s suggestions.

“Well, how about yakisoba?”

The scent of the sauce does raise my appetite. The taste makes you hungry.

“…Yanami-san, aren’t you eating yakisoba right now?”

“That’s just because I’m hungry. It doesn’t taste good. My intuition tells me that the store at the corner is the tastiest.”

Yanami slurped the noodles as she said that. Obviously, she’s going for another serving.

“Well, I’ll go.”

Yakishio wiped her body with a towel and stood up.

“Thanks, Nukumizu should tag along too.”

Prez said that as he looked around vigilantly.

“People always try to talk to girls when they are alone, so we have to prevent that as soon as possible.”

“That only happens in 2D, right?”

Well, you can’t go wrong with a bit more mindfulness.

Yakishio and I walked across the beach. Even though walking together with a girl in a swimsuit is quite nerve-wracking for me, it feels kind of nice. …I just sounded like an elementary kid right there, didn’t I?

“We went home a bit late yesterday. Did you get home safe?”

“Of course, I often go home at that time after the club.”

The conversation ended. By the way, I wasn’t supposed to bring up what happened yesterday, right? At this moment, I’m utterly disappointed in my communication skills.

“Eh, don’t tell me Nukkun is worried about what happened to me yesterday?”

Yakishio looked at me, who fell silent awkwardly.

“Well, I just felt like I did something unnecessary and just made you even more upset.”

“Hiya, how should I put it? I’m really upset. Even right now, I can cry in like 2 seconds if I want to, you know? But that’s another thing. I decide whether I want to cry or not. Also, I just want to have fun with everyone today.”

Yakishio squeezed out a smile. She kicked the sand forcefully.

“As dense as he is, he managed to skillfully get a girlfriend for himself-“

“Yeah, Ayano is indeed smart and handsome.”

“Right!? That’s not all. He’s humorous and kind to anyone-“

After that, Yakishio dropped her shoulders depressedly.

“…Even though we’ve been together for a few years. He’s not even viewing me as a proper girl, right?”

“Well, uh, it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing, right?”

“No, that’s a really weird way to comfort me.”

Yakishio approached me with a stern face. Yeah, I think so too.

“Yakishio-san. Well, anyway, …let’s just forget everything and have fun today.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

Yakishio suddenly stopped and gave me a big smile. Her teeth are really white.

“Hehehe.”

“…What?”

She chuckled and held my hand suddenly.

Hiya!? What!?

“Alright, let’s go!”

What’s happening? Yakishio ignored my confusion and started dashing. I quickly followed her.

“W-Wait up!”

Uwah, she is speed. I feel like she’s about to tear my arm away from my shoulder.

I’m about to die. I can’t keep up at all. My legs tripped over, and I fell onto the beach. Yakishio followed the same fate as I dragged her down too.

“Nukkun, too slow! You’re too slow!”

“No, you’re too fast, Yakishio-san!”

I stood up with my body covered in sand. Yakishio remained laid down on the beach as she laughed.

“You’re so slow! It’s kind of funny that you’re covered in sand!”

Yakishio burst into laughter.

“Ha!? What does that have to do with me running slow!?”

What are you even trying to say?

I wiped my face with my arm. My face is now covered in sand.

“Stop! My stomach hurts-“

Yakishio could barely contain her laughter as she rolled on the ground. As for me, I patted the sand away in silence.

“Ah, …that’s enough.”

Yakishio’s face is covered with sand too. She wiped the tears dripping from the corner of her eyes.

“…Yakishio-san, let’s get lunch..”

“It’s okay to not add honorifics, you know. Aren’t we the same age?”

Yakishio reached her hand out to me. Her body remained on the ground.

“Here.”

“Hmm? What, there are bugs on your hand?”

Yakishio blinked. Then, she cleaned the sand as she stood up.

“Yeah, you’re just like what Yana-chan said. I don’t like this part of yours.”

“Which part of me are you talking about?”

Yakishio gently knocked my chest.

“You know, girls want to be spoiled sometimes.”

“Oh, I see.”

I learned something today. I quickly agreed with her.

Yakishio bulged her eyes as she looked at me. She mumbled something.

“Sheesh, that’s why I don’t like this part of yours.”

So, which part of mine are we talking about here?

*

“Thanks for the wait. We’re back.”

“Hey, Yakishio, stop shaking your body.”

We got the yakisoba from the “furthest store” with our bodies covered in sand.

“Sheesh, you two are surely making us wait.”

Yanami already finished her first yakisoba as she happily took the second serving.

This girl is always hungry. You’re amazing, Anna Yanami. No wonder people always say they feel secure around you. Also, I shouldn’t underestimate her ability to save the most yakisoba for herself as she’s splitting it.

“Hmm, Komari, you’re not going to eat?”

Komari isn’t eating. Instead, she’s fiddling the sand with her fingers worriedly.

“P-Prez is reading my novel.”

Oh, I see. This finally feels like a Literature Club trip. I split the chopsticks with my mouth.

Prez raised his head from his phone as he took the yakisoba.

“I read it. Hmm, the writing’s interesting. Let’s submit it tonight.”

“I-I see.”

Komari smiled in relief.

“It’s around 10,000 words in total, right? Let’s proofread the submitted part again and split it into 3 chapters.”

“S-Split…?”

“Yes, works are usually submitted in chapters between 3 to 4,000 words. The hook must be interesting enough to satisfy the readers. Titles and introductions are mandatory too.”

I listened to their conversation as I ate the yakisoba.

The spiciness is overflowing in my nose. I see. This is indeed worthy of Yanami’s recommendation. The sauce is really unique.

“I-I’ve already added the t-title.”

“Hmm, I think the title’s nice. How about we add a subtitle that can express the content?”

Prez adapted Komari’s title and even suggested a subtitle like the ones you see in <Let’s Become an Author!>.

…By the way, this noodle is really chewy. It’s not something cheap you can get from a supermarket. I guess it’s fresh from a factory that delivers it every day.

I looked at Yanami. She smugly raised her thumb at me.

“W-What should t-the subtitle be?”

“Hmm, …for example, let's say the title is <Literature Club at the Beach>. Nukumizu, what would you add?”

“Eh, it’s my turn?”

The ball was suddenly tossed to me. I was paying full attention to my yakisoba, you know? But, girls in swimsuits are surrounding me, so I don’t want to say anything stupid.

“Well, how about <And Then There Were None>?”

I tried my best to follow Prez’s idea. He nodded deeply.

“This is a nice one if it’s a mystery novel. Readers can be guided easily with a title of a famous work.”

“W-What would P-Prez use?”

“Let me think. …From my experience, I prefer titles like <We didn’t know this is a nudist’s beach!?> or <Is it true that the more you take off, the higher score you get!?> I bet titles like this will attract a lot of views-“

Tsukinoki-senpai smacked Prez’s head before he could even finish. Then, Prez squatted down in pain.

“Alright, Shintaro, you should stop.”

“K-Koto, …hey, I’m not asking you to take off, right?”

“S-T-O-P!”

Okay, you two should stop too. It’s really annoying to see you two flirting.

“Eh, Yana-chan, I think the Literature Club is doing something incomprehensible.”

Yakishio said that as she searched for the sides in her yakisoba using her chopsticks.

“Yeah, by the way, Remon-chan, does yours have meat in it?”

“There’s octopus, but I don’t see any meat.”

“I want meat-“

“I want-“

Yanami and Yakishio slurped the noodles with their crystal-clear eyes. They are like two idiots who get along with each other.

“T-Take off…? A-Are we taking o-off?”

Komari mumbled something as she looked at her phone.

“Komari, that was just an example. It’s unnecessary to make the characters take off their clothes.”

“I-In other words, will you take y-your clothes off too, Nukumizu?”

How did things end up like this?

“I won’t. No one needs to. You should eat.”

*

It’s post-lunch break now. Yakishio suddenly stood up. Perhaps she’s bored with sitting around.

“Isn’t there an event over that side of the beach? Let’s check it out.”

“…I think there are stalls.”

Yanami chewed on her post-lunch fried corn and mumbled. Of course, Yanami stood up too.

She just finished eating. What an energetic girl. I unintentionally raised my head. Yanami’s stomach appeared in front of me.

“Ah, wait, Yanami-san. Your jacket.”

Yanami looked at the jacket I handed to her. She bulged her eyes in disbelief.

“Jacket? I should be fine with sunscreen, right?”

“No, I mean…your stomach…”

I looked away after saying that too.

2 servings of yakisoba + fried corn = chubby stomach.

Yanami robbed the jacket from my hands and just threw it straight to my face.

“I-I have my own jacket! That’s why I don’t like this part of yours, Nukumizu-kun!”

She got on her jacket and quickly left. The fried corn is still in her hand.

Yakishio gave Komari a refreshing smile as she looked at her phone.

“Komari-chan should tag along too. You’ve been sitting for the whole day?”

“Eh!?”

Komari’s eyes floated around as she struggled to answer Yakishio with her phone. Prez held Komari’s hand.

“P-Prez!?”

“Komari-chan should go too. You can treat it as getting ideas for your novel.”

“I-If Prez says so, I’ll…”

“What a good child. Koto, you should follow them too.”

“Okay, Komari-chan, let’s go.”

Senpai held Komari’s hand and chased after them. Prez and I stood side-by-side and watched them silently.

“Is it okay to leave the girls alone? Won’t somebody try to strike up a conversation with them?”

“It’s fine if Koto’s there. She’s known as the Flag Destroyer.”

I don’t know whether this is Prez’s trust for her. He took his phone out.

“Also, I want to prepare for tonight’s submission.”

“Right, this trip is supposed to be a canned session.”

I have to write something too.

Just as I was anxiously checking my notes on my phone, I got Prez’s message. I think there’s an attachment too.

“What’s this?”

“Don’t you want to see Komari-chan’s novel?”

Prez’s attitude is a bit smug. I opened the document in curiosity.

*

Literature Club Report

<The Warm Chronicles of Youkai Café> by Chika Komari


Yuri Mizuhara, year 1 of high school.

One day, she bumped into an animal on her way home.

“A fox…?”

Then, Yuri’s eyes are attracted to the color of its fur. The silver reflection is brimming with elegance. Yuri can’t help but chase after it.

She accidentally entered an unfamiliar street. A café covered in Japanese ivy appeared in front of her. As if it’s inviting Yuri, the door opened by itself.

“Sorry, I want to ask for directions.”

There’s a tall man in chef clothes inside. Yuri looked at his long, tied silver hair in shock.

“Hiya, you followed me. Have a seat. The least I can do is pour you a cup of tea.”

“Hello, I want to ask for directions-“

“Here’s known as Interval Street. You can’t leave without eating something.”

A young waiter walked out just as Yuri was confused.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen customers. Here, have a seat.”

The young man called himself Sumire as he greeted Yuri with his dreamy smile.

“Welcome to the Lost Home of the Interval Street-“

-The girl already forgot how many times she visited the café. As usual, Yuri is sitting next to the window as she observes the relieving scene here.

The shopkeeper, who’s called “young master”, only appears every 3 days. Sumire-san is usually the only one present. This isn’t much of an issue since there are nearly no customers.

Yuri picked up the cup and wrapped herself in the scent of chamomile tea as usual. Suddenly, a man entered from the door. His body is radiating a ghostly aura that humans don’t have.

Sumire-san’s face immediately went pale.

“Master!”

“Today’s the promised day. Bring me that dish.”

“S-Sorry, I haven’t seen the young master today…”

“Well, as we’ve promised, everything will shatter within the Interval.”

Sumire-san grabbed Yuri tremblingly.

“Please, Yuri! I’ll disappear within the Interval if the promise isn’t fulfilled. Please make a dish in my place!”

“Eh? I’m no good. Does Sumire-san not know how to cook?”

Sumire-san mumbled aggrievedly.

“I can’t use fire.”

Yuri never had proper cooking experience. So, she can only put out the omurice she made with her mother when she was a little worried. Meanwhile, the man picked up the spoon suspiciously.

One, two, …the man finished Yuri’s dish a spoon at the time. His expression tells me that he’s not enjoying it. After that, he shook his head and put down the spoon.

“Next time, make something that’s actually edible when I come.”

There’s half of the omurice left on the plate. The man went back after saying that.

“You’re amazing, Yuri! Master always goes home after having a single bite!”

Then, the shopkeeper appeared behind the joyful Sumire-san.

“Sheesh, Dad finally went back.”

“Young master!”

The man had a spoon of the remaining omurice.

“Plain.”

He threw the spoon into the plate.

“But it’s not too bad.”

“What do you mean!? I’m the one that made it for you! Also, is this the attitude you should have for a customer?”

“Well, how about you stop being our customer? You’ll be our chef starting tomorrow.”

“Who’s going to be the chef in your café!?”

Yuri tried to rebel, but the man forced Yuri into the wall.

“Weren’t you the one that chased after me first? You stalking girl.”

“I was chasing a silver fox, not you-“

The man raised Yuri’s chin with the tip of his finger.

“My name is Tsukiko. Remember it.” [TL: The literal translation is moon fox]

The man whispered next to Yuri’s ear.

“I’ll engrave my scent deep into your bones.”

*

…I see. That’s how it is.

I looked at the clouds in the sky after I finished reading Komari’s novel.

“I see. That’s how it is.”

This time, I said what I thought out loud. This isn’t my field.

But the writing is pretty smooth. I finished it in one go.

“It’s quite good, right?”

Tamaki-senpai looked at me happily.

“Komari-chan’s writing is nice.”

“Yes, she is. At least I don’t think I can write something like this.”

I’m unwilling to give up so easily, so I’ll say something a bit pretentious.

“We have some new members too. It looks like the Literature Club can finally settle in.”

People are cheering in the stalls. Prez glanced in that direction to see what was going on.

“By the way, what did Prez write?”

“Me? Well, I uploaded something to <Let’s Become an Author> 3 years ago.”

“Eh, aren’t you amazing? Can I see it?”

“It’s quite nerve-wracking to show other people what I’ve done again.”

Prez took out his phone embarrassedly. A slightly familiar title came into view.

<The slave girl I picked is actually an S-class adventurer, so I started living off her>

…No, wait, I’ve actually read it.

“I actually know about this one. I’ve even read it.”

“For real? This is the first time I’m meeting a reader in real life.”

Although I’ve heard of many student novelists online, I didn’t expect Prez to be one of them either. He’s the author with over 20,000 accumulated points with his novel, Tarosuke-sensei.

“That’s an amazing score. You can publish books for real, right?”

“It’s not nearly close. A lot of people are better than me.”

Is that really the case? A few thousand people are reading your work, you know?

“Yanami-san also said that she’ll send over her draft once it’s done. How are things going for you, Nukimizu?”

“I just wrote a summary. The main content is still bone dry. How should I put it? In reality, I don’t even know what I should write when I’m actually doing it.”

“Well, you should start with a title and intro for the day. At times like this, the most important part is to start writing, even if there’s only a single line.”

This is coming from a person who wrote more than 1 million words. I nodded obediently.

“Well, I sent you my summary yesterday. What do you think? I’m going to start writing the plot at the start tonight.”

“Well, …the female MC doesn’t have enough monologues.”

“You mean the plot of the FMC falling in love with MC isn’t solid?”

Yeah, I have to write more about what the MC and FMC are thinking.

“No, it’s the exact opposite. You wrote that the FMC fell in love with the MC after he helped her, right?”

“Well, yes. The FMC was impressed by how gentle the MC is and lowered her guard, and then she became attracted to him.”

“This is just plotting.”

“Eh?”

“Loving someone because they helped you or treated you nicely is just a kind of spiritual trade deal. Love that comes along with conditions isn’t pure.”

I thought Prez was joking around, but he looks pretty serious.

“Just like how water always flows to a lower place, in a novel’s world, the MC will be loved without doing anything. The so-called being attracted to someone also means that they will eventually separate one day. The FMCs aren’t attracted to the MC. Instead, they have to play by the rules and yearn and praise the MC unconditionally.”

After saying all that in one go, Prez looked at the sky throbbingly.

“I want to get isekai’d and be loved by everyone too. …I wonder whether a post-drinking swimming session will do.”

“Wait until the Ghost Festival. I feel like you’ll have an easier time going over to that side.”

However, I certainly didn’t expect Prez to be such a troublesome guy. Even though he’s handsome, cheerful, and has a beautiful childhood friend. I guess everyone has their own troubles.

The girls came back while we were chatting.

“Hey, we’re back! These are the presents!”

Yakishio is holding a lot of fireworks.

“That’s a lot. Did you girls buy them?”

Yakishio handed me the fireworks chicly.

“I dashed out and started running, and then, bam, I got the flag and the fireworks.”

I see. I don’t understand at all. So, Tsukinoki-senpai explained it to me.

“Yakishio-chan suddenly participated in a capture-the-flag race, and these are her prizes.”

“Y-Yeah, s-she’s fast.”

Komari nodded excitedly.

“Hiya, I’m not bad. Praise me more.”

In contrast to Yakishio twisting around joyfully, one girl looks pretty depressed.

“What’s wrong, Yanami-san? You’re so gloomy.”

“There’s no…stalls.”

Yanami looked at the shop hungrily. I can see her lips saying the word “takoyaki”.

“You can’t eat dinner if you eat too much.”

“Eh, …why?”

What do you mean by…why?

Yanami’s face looks genuinely confused. By the way, why? This must be philosophy.

“By the way, we have to cook dinner by ourselves. What are we making?”

“Hmph, hmph, hmph. Nukimizu-kun, you don’t need to worry about not having enough meat.”

Yanami smiled confidently.

“I’ve already booked a place near the camping ground. We’re having a barbecue for dinner.”

“Eh…”

Wait, didn’t this girl say she came here to escape barbecue? I love curry more. Rice grilled in a box tastes good too.

“What? Nukumizu, you don’t look too interested.”

Yanami is in disbelief of my plain reaction.

“It’s a barbecue, okay!? Meat!? What else do you want?”

Yanami suddenly clapped her hands as if she realized something.

“Oh, I get it. Relax, we’ll definitely have beef. We’re in high school, after all.”

Yanami’s expression looks pretty smug. She gave me a thumbs-up.

“I want to ask, what does beef have to do with being a high school student?”

“You can’t eat beef at home during mandatory education, right?”

“…No.”

“Eh? But Dad said that.”

Wait, why does this sound a bit depressing?

“Huh? Is that a law? Maybe school rules?”

“I bet it must be because of your father’s company. You know, like the ones where the employees can only buy Toyota cars.”

Nice, my conclusion is perfect. This topic ends here.

“Company, …right. I wonder what Dad is doing now…?”

Yanami lowered her head. The depressing chain isn’t over yet.

“No, well, he must be working, right?”

“Y-Yes! Dad is working really hard, okay? But Dad is really bad at working in the company.”

Stop, Yanami. I’ll really cry if you continue.

[TL: If you’re wondering, Yanami’s family told her she can’t eat beef because of how expensive it is and her appetite. The Toyota joke is about nationalist companies only supporting cars made in Japan.]

*

It’s almost time to take the bus.

It’s time for us to leave, considering the time for a shower and changing. I think Yanami’s done eating takoyaki too.

Yakishio didn’t seem to have enough fun when I was packing stuff. She started doing stretches facing the sea.

“By the way, Komari-chan. You haven’t got into the sea, right?”

“Eh, well…”

Komari hastily tried to take out the phone in her bag.

Yakishio took the opportunity. She smiled and princess-carried Komari.

“Ah!?”

“Well, let’s go!”

“Have fun.”

We waved at Yakishio as she dashed out. She’s totally unfazed by Komari’s struggle. Strong girls, I’m telling you.

“Well, I’ll close the umbrella.”

“You should return this inflated tiger whale too. I still have to pack up.”

I can hear splashes in the sea. At the same time, somebody’s screaming too. Hey, Komari’s scream is unexpectedly adorable.

“Shintaro, the girls have to get off the bus in the middle and stop by the supermarket. Can you two move our things to the hostel first?”

Tsukinoki-senpai took off her hairband. Her black hair is scattered on her naked shoulder.

Senpai used the towel to dry her hair as she leaned on Prez to check the schedule.

“Just in time for the next bus when we’re done shopping.”

“Koto, your hair is touching me. It’s cold.”

“Shut up. I will touch you.”

They are flirting with each other just as usual. Go explode.

“Ugh, …I’m all wet.”

Komari’s soaked as she twisted her jacket. The beach portrays the stomach of her school swimsuit. …I see. I finally understood what Yanami said back then. It’s an unusual product of embarrassment and immorality. Perhaps only high-level people will appreciate her clothing.

“Komari-chan, how do you feel? The seawater is nice, right!”

Yakishio swept up her wet hair and wrapped her hands around Komari’s shoulders.

“S-Salty…”

“Right, it’s nice.”

“I-I told you it’s salty!”

“It’s the sea, after all! What are you talking about, Komari-chan?”

Yakishio laughed cheerfully. Komari, you can’t have a normal conversation with this girl.

Tsukinoki-senpai clapped her hands.

“Alright, play time’s over! It’s time to change and get to the hostel!”

…I had fun. Isn’t it time to disband?

I put the umbrella on my shoulder as I thought about that

*

The sun is setting. The scorching heat during the day is quickly residing too.

Bugs that I have never heard of are calling. Scary.

“I’ll put the washed vegetables here.”

“Thanks. Can you help me put the stuff I’ve finished cutting on the plate?”

We’re at the outdoor kitchen in the camping ground now. Yanami volunteered to make dinner, but she asked me to help her for some reason.

Well, if she volunteered, I think she would be good with knives- no, it’s not good, very not good. She’s chipping away the carrot with a pretty dangerous technique.

“Yanami-san, do you want to tell me something?”

“Eh? No, just help me cut the carrots I’ve peeled. Is that okay?”

Of course, I cut the carrot with skills that are just as bad as Yanami.

“It’s because you wanted my help instead of Yakishio’s.”

Yanami’s hands stopped.

“…Cooking lessons. Have you ever been in the same group as Remon-chan?”

“Hmm, no, I haven’t.”

Yanami suddenly looked into the distance.

“She still can’t control fire or use knives yet.”

What the hell happened between them? From Yakishio’s look, she’s a sporty and attractive girl who’s untouchable. But after actually making contact, I realized she’s actually pretty useless.

“I’ll tell you that girl is a potential candidate for arson.”

“Nevermind.”

They will deal with their own issues, anyway. I changed the topic to something I’m interested in.

“By the way, Yanami-san. I read the novel you wrote.”

“Eh, you’ve checked it out already? It’s a bit embarrassing.”

“It’s fun. The writing is pretty smooth too.”

Yanami’s novel is a simple slice-of-life story. The scene is going to school. The genuine conversation really conveyed the feelings of the girl hesitating whether she should say hi to the boy she’s in love with.

“Also, I didn’t know there is so much knowledge about teriyaki in convenience stores. I learned something.”

“Right, no one knows for some reason.”

Wait, what were we talking about? Whatever, as long as Yanami is happy about it.

I walked to the camping ground after finishing the prep work. Prez is fanning the charcoal fire, while Tsukinoki-senpai is fanning Prez.

“Uh, where did Yakishio go?”

I don’t see her.

“I think she’s over there.”

She’s outside the light’s coverage. Yakishio is hugging her kneecaps as she peeled broad beans. Her face is covered in coal powder too.

…I think something bad happened.

“Leave her alone. Don’t bother her.”

“Yeah, leave her alone.”

*

Meat > meat > green pepper > meat > meat > sausage.

As if she didn’t have enough meat during the day, Yanami’s momentum isn’t stopping at all.

As for me, my sequence is cabbage > onion > corn. As for the meat I’m raising, Yanami swiftly robbed that away from me.

“Hey, that wasn’t done-“

“It’s fine. Nukumizu-kun is unexpectedly mindful about these things.”

Yanami’s enjoying the meat dripping with blood.

There’s a huge canyon between the half-done and well-done faction. I immediately acknowledged my failure and took a bite of the burnt carrot as I looked at other members.

“Tasty! Is this from Mexico?”

Yakishio’s chewing non-stop. Red meat juice is leaking out of her mouth.

“Shintaro, I’m done here. Give me your plate.”

“P-Prez, I-I’m done grilling too.”

“Thanks, yeah, having food outdoors tastes better.”

Shintaro-senpai is constructing his harem. As usual, I don’t know whether I should be envious.

“Nukumizu, are you eating? This meat tastes really good. Eat up.”

“Okay, sure.”

What’s happening? I have a bad feeling. I noticed something after observing them.

…Why is everyone eating meat?

It’s too late for me to feel shocked. Yanami clapped the cramp and put the meat on the net.

“Remon-chan, this one is pretty chewy. It’s from Argentina, right? Yeah, beef just has to come from the Americas.”

“Eh, Yanami knows a lot. Argentina is…uh, pretty far away from here, right? Is this aged beef?”

Yakishio admired Yanami as she threw another piece of meat in her mouth. Tsukinoki-senpai shrugged helplessly.

“Yakishio-chan, that’s not what aged beef is. You should come on the trip next year too. I’ll let you taste real aged beef.”

Isn’t she a third-year already? Is she going to stay in the Literature Club next year too?

“I-It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten b-beef…”

Komari shoved the beef inside her mouth throbbingly. Everything that Yanami had put on the net is already in everyone’s stomach.

…Undoubtedly, these people are in the “I don’t mind it’s half-done” faction.

I never thought that I would be surrounded by enemies. However, I can’t just sit around and wait for my death here. So, I paid attention to a certain kind of food.

I can eat this even if it’s raw. My chopsticks pointed toward the sausage that was put on the net just a while ago.

“Nukkun, I just put it on there. Wait for a bit.”

“W-What a g-gluttonous person.”

Why must you hurt me in this way? How can y’all say that when every single one of you is eating raw meat? Their unreasonable demands crushed me. Yanami approached me with a plate of meat.

“Nukumizu-kun, you must be hungry, right? Here, this one is done.”

I quickly took my plate away from the half-done pork. …I feel like I’ve experienced something like this before.

Tsukinoki-senpai handed me another plate.

“You must be hungry. Here.”

There’s a rice ball on the plate, and it’s a red bean rice ball.

“Where did this come from?”

“From the other camp, and it’s properly grilled.”

I see. This is tastier than those made with sesame salt.

“An adorable middle school girl gave us that. I was going to give her some meat in return, but I couldn’t find her anymore.”

I immediately looked around again. It’s all strangers.

…Sigh, that should be impossible, right? I waved my hand at the converging bugs and started biting the red bean rice ball.

*

The sunset is swallowed up by the dark blue sky. The night is covering us everywhere at once.

Insects and frogs can be heard everywhere. The woods are rustling too. If you listen closely, the mountain at night is unexpectedly lively.

Tsukinoki-senpai reached her hand forward. A yellow beam of light flew out from the paper roll and made a parabola. The light turned from yellow to green. Finally, it scattered into shining red sparkles before gradually disappearing.

Tsukinoki-senpai smiled charmingly. The smile is for Tamaki-senpai. He didn’t notice senpai because he was choosing the fireworks. Senpai silently kicked Prez’s back.

“Watch the fireworks.”

“That’s why I’m picking which one is next.”

“Eh, but, …look, this one’s too big. A single person can’t play it! Play with me!”

“You can take it alone. Hey, alright, alright, I got it. Stop kicking me!”

These two. Can you two just get married already?

I sighed and put the remaining meat onto the net. With the remaining fire, I promised that I must raise my creation properly. Alright, your name shall be Setsuko.

Exploding gunpowder can be heard throughout the place. Yakishio’s shaking the firework stick around as Komari squeaked and escaped.

“Those two got really close super fast.”

Yanami chewed the remaining green peppers bit by bit, which are raw, by the way.

Are they close? Anyway, I guess so.

“You’re not going to play with the fireworks, Yanami-san?”

“I want to have desserts first.”

“Ah, speaking of desserts for barbecues-“

“Hmph, hmph, hmph. Yes, this is the one!”

“Marshmallow-“

“Offal platter!”

Yanami took out a package with a cheerful smile. Are you serious?

“That’s how my house ends a barbecue.”

We don’t talk about Yanami’s family here. But, at this point, I can only go with the flow.

The other side of Setsuko is already starting to smell good. If it’s a person, she should be around elementary school right now. Hmm, the red school bag matches her. Well, it’s time to flip you and give you a well-done.

“Ah, I’ll have that one.”

The meat that I’ve poured my soul and heart into raising is robbed by Yanami’s chopsticks.

“Setsuko!?”

Ah, Setsuko, I’ve spent so much time raising you. The imaginary memories are flashing in my brain.

“Setsuko?”

“No, well…”

Yanami laughed mischievously as she raised her chopsticks.

“You should say it if you want to eat. Here, ah.”

“Huh!? Eh?”

I carefully opened my mouth after confirming that no one was around. The taste of blood and fat is spreading on my tongue.

“Is it good?”

“Y-Yes.”

“So, how much is this worth?”

-Huh!? That’s what you’re up to!? I can’t believe this girl dares to mess with a young man’s pure heart.

But, if I have to say how much this is worth.

“7-700-“

“Sheesh, I’m just joking.”

Yanami cracked into laughter.

“Ehehe, what were you trying to say? Eh? 700 yen?”

“I-I didn’t…”

I plopped my head down and avoided looking at her. Yanami chuckled as she got really close to me.

“Hiya, I didn’t know me feeding you worth so much. Ehehe.”

“No, uh. Girls aren’t supposed to do this on a whim. Things like this are, well, based on rarity.”

“Hehe, you’re right. Do you want another bite? I’ll go easy on you.”

She’s just messing with me. I want to fight back, but I don’t think I’ll win.

I looked at everyone playing with the fireworks silently.

Yakishio’s drawing circles with her new fireworks as she cheered around. The sparkles are shining around her before disappearing into the night. As usual, she’s energetic, but not in a cute way.

As for Komari, she’s entirely focused on burning the ground with fireworks. Did the ground kill your parents?

Everyone likes to have fun in different ways. Like Yanami, she likes to eat meat more than fireworks.

Alright, now that Setsuko’s life is over and Yanami’s still indulging herself in meat, I should play with fireworks too.

I stood up and took a small one out of the large package of fireworks. It’s a cheap one with a gun-shaped handle. However, I do remember I used to like this when I was little.

I grilled the pebbles on the ground with fireworks as if I was executing them- isn’t this the same as Komari?

I ignited the fireworks as I glanced at Komari.

Next to the slightly glistening fire, Komari’s about to light up a big one. However, it didn’t go off after she tried a couple times. At last, sparkles started spewing out of the tube

But it immediately went off.

I guess the fireworks got damp. Komari turned over the tube and looked inside when I was thinking that.

“Idiot!”

Boom. The fireworks exploded before I could voice out.

My eyes were immediately stunned by light.

After my vision recovered, Prez appeared. His hand is holding the tube. He frowned and threw out the crushed fireworks.

“Komari-chan, are you hurt!?”

“I-I’m fine-“

“Are you okay?”

Prez observed Komari’s hand and finally held her face. He looked into her eyes.

“Are your vision clear? Does it hurt?”

“N-No, … I’m fine.”

“Glad to hear that. …What should I do if you hurt your face?”

Prez calmed down with a relieved expression.

“I-It’s fine even if my face is hurt. …F-Forget about me. P-Prez, your hand…”

“Are you an idiot? How can you say it’s fine?”

Prez shoved his hands into his pocket like it was nothing.

“N-No one will look at my face anyway…”

“At least you’ll look at it yourself, right?”

“Eh, …m-maybe.”

“Bad memories will surface if you see your scar on the face every day. I hate that.”

“P-Prez…”

“So, don’t look down on yourself. Be more confident-“

“T-Tamaki-senpai!”

Her voice echoes throughout the night sky.

Even I can hear how loud Komari’s breathing is. At the next moment-

“I-I love you!”

The sudden confession stopped time.

Yanami’s flipping over the meat. The fiery pillar charging out from the fireworks burnt Yakishio’s hair, who stood completely still.

Prez opened his mouth after recovering from the shock. His body is still stiff.

“Komari-chan? Uh, what does that mean-“

Komari took another deep breath. Then, she said a bunch of things at once.

“I-It means I love you! I love Prez! I-I-I’ve always loved Prez!”

Komari’s words are overflowing like a destroyed dam.

“I-I’m happy that Prez is always watching over me! I love Prez, so! P-Please go out with me!”

Her voice grew hoarse at the end. After she said everything, Komari seemed to have exhausted herself and plopped her head down with tears.

Seeing the unfolding scene in front of her, Tsukinoki-senpai stood still like a stone.

Yanami’s still eating. Yakishio’s hitting her burnt hair with her hands. What’s with these two?

“…No, well, this is a bit sudden.”

Prez broke the eternal silence. His mouth opened and closed as if he was considering what he should say.

Finally, he squeezed a sentence. Time started again.

“Give me some time. I’ll think about it.”

Komari nodded. At the next moment, she looked at Tsukinoki-senpai in fear before running away.

…Ah, don’t tell me.

Tsukinoki-senpai slowly walked towards Prez as three spectators were watching them silently.

“…Shintaro. What is this?”

“Koto. Are you going to ask me that? …Don’t you think this is also too sudden?”

Tsukinoki-senpai pulled Prez’s hand out from his pocket and sprayed water on it.

“Sorry, it’s just a bit of gunpowder. There’s no burn damage.”

“…So, you even said you’ll think about it. Aren’t you making things worse to leave her with a cliffhanger?”

Tsukinoki-senpai carefully wrapped Prez’s hand with a handkerchief.

“Hey, Koto.”

“The most gentle thing you can do is to reject her clearly!”

Senpai held Prez’s hand and glared at him.

“Wait, Koto-“

“Why!? Why didn’t you reject her!?”

Facing Tsukinoki-senpai’s demand, Prez looked away awkwardly.

“…This is between Komari-chan and me, whether I accepted or rejected her. It has nothing to do with you, right?”

Silence ensued again. I can only hear the bugs’ call and meat being grilled.

“…Right, Shintaro and I are just childhood friends.”

Senpai said that calmly. After a moment of silence, she slapped Prez’s face as hard as she could.

“We’re just childhood friends!”

She also ran away after repeating that. Tamaki-senpai remained still.

There’s a snake-shaped firework stick next to Yakishio.

…That must be nice. I want to forget everything and play with snake-shaped fireworks too. Just as I tried to escape reality, Yanami and Yakishio urged me by blinking and frowning constantly. Do they want me to say something to him?

I’m scared. Yanami and Yakishio urged me. I can hear them saying, “Go, go!”

“Uh, Prez.”

Prez looked at me with empty eyes.

“Nukumizu. …Sorry for ruining our trip.”

“I-It’s fine. You can leave things here to us. Well, chase after her.”

“Which one?”

Think about it yourself, dude. I barely stopped myself from saying that.

“You decide.”

Even though this sounds the same.

“Got it. …Sorry, I’ll leave the rest to you.”

Prez wobbled as he disappeared into the darkness.

The remaining people sighed at the same. This is certainly unexpected.

“Uh, …can you guys extinguish the fire and pack up?”

The staff member of the camping ground spoke up tremblingly. He looks genuinely awkward.

I bet he was interrupted before he could come out. He must’ve watched us from afar.

“Sorry, we’ll clean up now.”

“Sorry about that. It looked like you guys were busy.”

Isn’t this person too nice? I quickly started packing the dishes.

“Got it.”

Yanami nodded.

“I’ll eat them all up right now.”

*

“I didn’t know Komari-chan loves Prez. Wow, she’s bold.”

In front of the washing tub, Yakishio’s squishing the sponge full of bubbles. She’s looking at the sky like a young maiden in love.

“She took the initiative and confessed to her most beloved person under the starry sky! How romantic! The era of girls going on the attack is here-“

After that, her spontaneous excitement suddenly died down. The sponge fell down from the plate.

“…Yeah, I can’t just sit around and wait. I finally know that now.”

For some reason, these two losing heroines really love to open their wounds again. I tied the garbage bag as I thought, “There’s no way I can deal with her.”

“But, Nukkun. Isn’t Prez going out with Tsukinoki-senpai?”

“They look like it, but they aren’t. I think it’s just a matter of time.”

However, from what Prez said, I think Komari has a chance too, right? I didn’t expect Tsukinoki-senpai to be a potential losing heroine candidate.

“Yes. Those two nom nom nom nom nom.”

Yanami’s cheeks are stuffed with meat as she’s chewing it. She answered with an expression like she knew it all.

“Yeah, Prez and vice really suit each other.”

“Yeah, Prez nom nom nom nom nom.”

“Indeed, I agree.”

For some reason, these two are having a meaningful conversation. Yakishio has a unique trick up her sleeve.

I quietly left my seat since I felt a bit distant from them. My confidence in making myself disappear without a trace is quite high. Those two didn’t even know I wasn’t there already.

…After strolling for a while, I saw the camping ground bathroom in the dark. It’s dimly lit. Anyway, I shall finish my business first.

The urinals in this one have a wall that reaches eye level. The woods in front of me are rustling, and the shadows are shaking.

While a lonely silence is certainly scary, it’s just as horrifying when someone’s there.

“Nukumizu…”

“Uwah!”

A voice from behind made me pissed out. Thank god I’m facing the urinal.

“Hey, Prez, don’t scare me like that!”

“Nukumizu, please listen to me…”

“Please wait until I finish my business! Uwah, don’t grab my shoulders!”

After I zipped up, I took my time washing my hands. Alright, let’s hear him out.

“Prez, did you stay in the bathroom for the whole time?”

“Well, I don’t know what I should do…”

Shouldn’t you chase after those two first? Aren’t you dragging your feet by complaining to your kouhai in the toilet?

“Nukumizu, can we talk about this?”

Seriously? Are you going to ask for my opinion on relationships? I looked at senpai in disbelief.

Also, this is a love triangle. It’s better for him to ask how a worm should defeat a goldfish instead.

“How should I say this? Prez, you’re really popular from all angles. Now’s not the time to talk with me.”

“Wait, my age is the same as how long I’m single. No one has even given Valentine’s chocolates besides Koto, not to mention a confession.”

“Doesn’t this mean you have someone to give it to you?”

“She has given me her ‘obligatory’ chocolate every year ever since we were little. It’s more like I’m amazed by how persistent she is.”

Why the hell are two guys talking about this in a toilet? Is this some kind of overseas game?

“Also, girls never invite me when they go out and play. Perhaps the term ‘weak in love’ is talking about me.”

Raise your head. I’ll show you who’s truly weak in love.

“Putting that all aside, you can’t get over Komari’s confession, right? Doesn’t this mean you have feelings for her?”

“Komari-chan is very adorable as a kouhai, but I’m not treating her as a girl at all.”

“Then why did you say you’ll think about it?”

“It’s hard for an unpopular guy to not be impressed by a kouhai’s confession. I have to think about it, right?”

Eh, really? But you missed a big premise.

“But, look, doesn’t Prez have Tsukinoki-senpai already?”

By the way, isn’t that person the reason you don’t get chocolates or confessions?

Prez dropped his shoulders deflatedly.

“Sigh, I’ll be honest when this involves her.”

“Ah.”

“…She rejected my confession.”

“Eh!?”

That’s impossible. You two are giving people diabetes left and right.

“Ha, did that happen when you two were 4 or 5 years old?”

“No, it happened last year’s Christmas.”

That’s awkwardly close. Come to think of it, I guess I can understand Prez’s reaction. A cute kouhai confessed to him when he’s trying to forget his rejection a few months ago.

It’s hard for him to not be frustrated, even though the person confessing is Komari.

“So, recently, I’ve been trying to limit myself from going to the club. However, Koto is still very close to me when I do that.”

Prez squatted down and hugged his kneecaps. You know this is a toilet, right?

“Think about it. Why was I slapped in the face by a person who rejected me? I have no idea anymore.”

Indeed, I can’t understand Tsukinoki-senpai’s violent reaction too.

“Anyway, the least you can do is go back and talk this out.”

I patted Prez’s shoulder.

“With her look, I bet there are all kinds of misunderstandings.”

“Are you… a love expert?”

That’s what you’re thinking? I finally gave up and smiled.

“Despite my look, I’m actually a master of love.”

*

After returning to the camping ground, Yanami and Yakishio are still cleaning up at the washing tubs.

I guess it’s over. It all comes down to Prez now. Yanami approached me when I was about to roll up my sleeves and continue washing things.

“Hey, Nukumizu, where did you go!?”

I think she’s not in a good mood. Is it because I left when they were cleaning up?

“Uh, I went to the bathroom…”

“That doesn’t matter!”

Even though you’re the one who asked first? Aren’t you being very mean?

“Tsukinoki-senpai just packed up and walked away from the hostel!”

Eh, really? It’s too dangerous due to the darkness. I looked in the direction that Yanami pointed dazedly. After that, I also noticed that she gave me an unbelievable look.

“Are you listening, Nukumizu-kun?”

“Eh? What?”

“It’s dangerous for a girl to walk alone at night!”

So, you want me to go after her? Eh, I’m afraid of the dark.

I’m still doing the dishes leisurely. Yanami directly punched my back.

“Remon-chan went to Komari-chan. I’ll look for Prez. You hurry up and chase after Tsukinoki-senpai!”

“Me? But it’s dark- ah, alright, I’ll go now.”

…Yanami’s scarier than the night.

I dashed in Tsukinoki-senpai’s direction and used the flashlight on my phone to guide myself.

After a while, I saw a girl hugging her luggage under the lights of the bus post. I called senpai’s name as I ran over there.

“Ah, …it’s Nukumizu-un.”

Senpai looks visibly disappointed after realizing it’s me. I’m so sorry that I’m not Prez.

“Where are you going, senpai? This is the opposite direction as the hostel.”

“Home. I don’t want to hang out with a guy like that.”

Senpai packed the luggage on her shoulders and sped up.

“Please wait. The last bus already left.”

“There’ll be a way if I make it to the station.”

It takes a long time to walk there, and there aren’t any lights either.

“Anyway, let’s sit down and talk. There’s a bench here.”

“Hey, wait, Nukumizu-kun!”

I took senpai’s bags away forcefully.

“I’m in a rush. Give me back my stuff.”

“Let’s take a break.”

I handed her some drinks I bought as I sat on the bench.

“Gogo no Kocha and Kochahanaden, which one?”

“…Gogo no Kocha.”

Tsukinoki-senpai finally gave up and sighed before sitting down. Right, at least I stopped her.

But what should I say? I should’ve asked Yanami first. Both of us stared at the dark mountain road.

“What did Shintaro say to get you here?”

“Eh? No, how should I put it?”

Tsukinoki-senpai frowned after I struggled to answer.

“…No?”

“Well, Prez went into the hostel’s direction to look for senpai. That’s why he didn’t see you.”

I think that’s the case. Please don’t mess up, Prez.

Tsukinoki-senpai took a sip of the red tea. After that, she recoiled onto the bench.

“Sorry, even though this is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip.”

This person said the same thing as Prez. I opened the bottle.

Things would have been easier if it were just between Prez and this person. However, right now, Komari’s in the equation too. I can’t deal with love triangles, man.

“How’s Komari-chan?”

“No idea. Yakishio went to her, so no worries.”

Senpai remained silent with a heavy heart. She spoke up after a while.

“…Boys just love girls who can be protected more, right?”

Are we still talking about love at this point? Everyone loves throwing topics like this at me. It looks like they are desperate.

“Indeed, it’s a pretty classic trope.”

“Girls like Komari are more popular…”

No, I don’t think so.

“Compared to the norm, I think how the couple feels is more important. Senpai and Prez are, well, pretty flirty with each other.”

“That’s what I thought too, until just then.”

What’s with your confidence? Also, Prez said that you rejected him. What happened?

“I feel like you two should explain things properly. As a spectator, I can sense misunderstandings between you two.”

“What misunderstandings? That guy kept Komari’s confession. Doesn’t that mean he’s hesitating whether he should go out with her?”

How much should I even say? I tried my best to formulate my words.

“Well, Prez, uh, he thinks that senpai may hate him.”

“Ha!? Why!?”

I called it. I knew there was a misunderstanding when she rejected Prez’s confession. Things will tangle up even more if I interrupt directly. Well, time to go around and search for the answer.

“You were with Prez during last year’s Christmas, right?”

“That guy even told you about this?”

“I guess. Uh, did Prez, well, …did he say anything to you?”

“What?”

“Please remember it. Did Prez say what he was thinking?”

“…I think that guy just expressed his passionate love for DomDom Burgers while eating Mos Burgers.”

Is that really what you two did at Christmas? I feel like even Prez wouldn’t confess to senpai while eating a burger.

“Is there anything else? Like bringing you to see the night sky or neon lights? Was there an especially romantic scene?”

“How can an idiot like him bring me to those places?”

“It’s not limited to places too. Like holding your hand because of the cold, sharing the same scarf, taking a ring out of the cake? Or neon lights suddenly appearing, and Kazumasa Oda’s jazz played when you two met each other’s eyes.”

“Isn’t the last one too old school?”

Then how in the world did he confess to you? I don’t think Tsukinoki-senpai has the power to ignore a confession under Christmas’s enchantment.

“Ah, but he did say something to me next to the Christmas Tree at the station.”

Yes, this is it! Nice work, Prez. DomDom Burgers don't even matter.

“Well, what did Prez say!?”

“I think…he said, ‘I will take you if no one wants to, so don’t worry.’ after tormenting me for a while.”

Don’t tell me that’s the confession Prez was talking about. It’s more ridiculous than I thought.

“Then how did you answer him?”

“Don’t appear before me. I think that was my answer.”

Senpai probably didn’t understand where this conversation was going. She looked at me in shock.

“What’s wrong, Nukumizu-kun?”

“Ah, I guess that answer is reasonable. I’m thinking how that counts as a confession too.”

Tamaki-senpai is the exact opposite of what he looks like. I should recommend some rom-com novels to him later.

“…Confession?”

Tsukinoki-senpai mumbled quietly.

“Huh!? That’s the confession? That guy thought that was the confession!?”

Senpai screamed into the night.

“Uh, well, that’s like ‘I want your miso soup every day.’ I think.”

Yeah, senpai didn’t realize it at all. But seriously, should I be the one to point this out?

“We’re talking about Christmas here, okay!? That’s not what a confession in a year 2’s Christmas looks like!? Is he an idiot!? He wants to die, right!?”

Shit, I spoke too much. It’s my responsibility that this got worse.

“Hey, that’s just one explanation or possibility-“

“I still have to eradicate him from this world.”

I can hear someone stepping on the rustling sand as senpai yells.

“Don’t. Please don’t-“

I turned back. Prez’s running out of breath as he dashed here.

“Prez!”

Great, I’ll leave the rest to them. I silently disappeared and started making my way back to the hostel.

I don’t have anything to do with what comes next. Yep, I’m saved.

-Suddenly, someone covered my mouth and dragged me into the bushes.

“Hey!”

“Shush! Be quiet!”

It’s Yanami’s voice. I nodded.

“As a club member, I have to witness this moment. Hey, put your head down.”

My heart’s racing a bit when Yanami’s whispering into my ears.

“Hey, aren’t we eavesdropping-“

Yanami pinched my waist silently. It looks like I can’t object to this.

We stayed in the bush and paid attention to Prez’s conversation. Our wrists often touched each other. The smell of meat, sweat, and deodorant are stimulating my nose.

…Prez embarrassedly walked to Tsukinoki-senpai, who lowered her head.

“Well, I’m sorry.”

“I’ve already heard from Nukumizu. Is that true?”

“You mean…what happened on Christmas?”

Tsukinoki-senpai continued instead of answering the question.

“We’ve been together for over 10 years, right?”

“Well, yes. Since 1st grade, even our class is the same.”

“…Girls in the class used to hate me because of how not cute I am.”

Perhaps senpai remembered something. She closed her eyes and bit her lips.

“You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to.”

“But Shintaro protected me, right? You saved me despite everyone around mocking us.”

“It’s because I hate you being bullied more than people laughing at us.”

Prez isn’t forcing himself to say that at all. He just answered calmly.

“That’s why I don’t like this part of you…”

Senpai’s face is blushing so much that even I can see it. She covered her mouth.

“You’ve grown a lot taller since middle school. I spent a lot of time trying to get those bad bugs away.”

“What? Aren’t you saying that like you’re the reason why I’m not popular?”

No, that’s exactly the reason. I complained silently.

“I’ve waited for you for a long time. It’s been too long. Even though I’ve been waiting for you for so long…”

Tsukinoki-senpai took a deep breath, and then she cried to Prez.

“After waiting for you for so long, that’s the confession you gave me!? That won’t work! Even a 100-year love with cool down!”

Tsukinoki-senpai ran out of breath after saying that. She looked at Prez.

“…Haha, you’re right.”

Prez smiled and patted Tsukinoki-senpai’s head. Senpai trembled in shock.

“Well, I’ll make you fall in love with me for another 100 years again.”

“…I would like to see you try.”

Tsukinoki-senpai’s head leaned on Prez’s chest.

Prez hesitated for a moment before carefully hugging Tsukinoki-senpai’s body as if she were a piece of glass art.

*

“So romantic…”

Yanami looked at those two intoxicatedly with her hands closed. No, I can’t watch this anymore.

“It’s time to go, Yanami-san.”

“Eh, but the climax is next-“

“No, we’ll be eavesdropping if we stay here.”

Even though we are eavesdropping right now. I grabbed Yanami’s hand and left.

“Wait, Nukumizu.”

“We can leave the rest to those two.”

“So, how long are you going to hold my hand?”

Huh!? I hastily let go. Shit, it’s because of that romantic aura and how close I was to Yanami. I became a lot bolder than normal.

“Uh, s-sorry! I-I didn’t mean to!”

“No, I don’t think you have to apologize this much.”

Yanami noticed how red my face is right now. Her expression turned into a mischievous smile.

“Eh, what? Does Nukumizu-kun want to confess to me?”

“I won’t.”

“It’s fine. Go for it, even though I’ll reject you.”

“I told you I won’t.”

I quickly walked outside. Yanami chuckled as she followed me.

“Hey, weren’t you impressed by what happened just then!? Don’t you want to fall in love?”

She looked at my face with a little devil’s smile after saying that.

“I want, but you’ll reject me, anyway, right?”

“Well, yes, but-“

She suddenly turned serious.

“But maybe I can still kiss your face, you know?”

“But you’ll reject me, right?”

“…You’re so dense, Nukumizu-kun.”

Yanami shrugged dumbfoundedly.

“Forget about that.”

“Eh, forget about that?”

Yanami raised her eyebrows in disbelief. What kind of reaction is that?

“I’m quite worried about Komari. Let’s go back.”

“Yeah, I guess so. But, but…”

Yanami tilted her head stiffly as she mumbled quietly again.

“…Forget about that?”

*

I realized the door was locked when pressing down the handle leading into the boys’ room.

The worst part is that Prez has the key. Well, I should chill out in the girls’ room before he comes back- I won’t be in such miserable shape if I can do that.

Yanami’s cold attitude when we split up further reduced my courage too. Even though she was messing with me in the middle, her aura suddenly got cold. I can’t understand girls.

I sighed and wandered around the hostel. Beetles won’t fall from the trees, right?

I heard people making a scene when I passed by the window. I think there’s a joint student council trip from schools all over the place.

I distanced myself from this lit window and continued walking forward. Someone squatted down. There’s a shaking orange orb of light on her hands.

It’s Komari. Isn’t Yakishio supposed to be with Komari?

I got too close when I was thinking about whether I should talk to her.

“Hey, Komari. I didn’t know that you’re here.”

“…S-Sheesh, it’s Nukumizu.”

Shit, this girl just got rejected.

I saw Prez and senpai hugging each other before I left. My heart can’t take what happens next if I tell her. Prez has to be the one to say it-

Komari ignored how suspicious I was. Instead, she reached her hand into her pocket.

“S-Sparklers. There are too many for me to play alone.”

I accepted her invitation, bent down, and ignited one.

A small orange fire quickly broke out that’s nothing like my memories. I looked at the fireworks dazedly. Its shape slowly turned into an orb.

At the next moment, familiar sparkles exploded around the orb.

“…I see. That’s what sparklers look like.”

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve played sparklers. I should probably play with fireworks with Kajyu when I get home.

After I lit a couple more in silence, I carefully glanced at Komari. Our eyes’ met.

“…W-W-What?”

“It’s nothing. Aren’t Yakishio supposed to be with you?”

“W-We were together just then. S-She got bored of it after lighting one up and got back to her room.”

Sparklers won’t explode or fly into the sky, after all.

“But it’s good to know that you got really close with Yakishio.”

I said that without thinking much. Komari bulged her eyes in disbelief.

“I-Is this what you call a close relationship…? A-Are you a hole?”

Is that how you use the word ‘hole’? I think I just turned into a kind of concept. [TL: The original sentence is 目が節穴. The whole thing means “have eyes but can’t see”. Komari just said the last word 穴, which means “hole”.]

…Alright, it looks like Komari can at least talk properly. I bet her confession’s momentum is still there.

I should send her back to the girls’ room before she knows her tragic ending. The rest is up to the girls-

“P-Prez came before you.”

Dump. The fire orb fell to the ground.

“I see. What happened next?”

“…I-I was rejected.”

She answered without hesitation and handed me another sparkler.

“I was f-formally rejected.”

She said that in a completely emotionless tone and ignited my sparkler.

“I-I see. …Hmm, well, Prez did answer you properly.”

If I was him, I would probably keep the answer and confess to my true love first.

“I-I bet N-Nukumizu will keep t-the answer first.”

“How did you know that?”

“…Y-You’re the worst.”

I can’t say anything.

The front part of the sparkler already turned into a dim orange fireball.

Sparkles exploded from Komari and my fireworks at the same time. It lit up Komari’s face.

“Prez c-considered. H-He considered about g-going out with me for real.”

Komari was about to break into tears as she cracked up and smiled.

“Ehehe, …for a short moment, I-I defeated Tsukinoki-senpai.”

Her petite back is shivering. The exhausted fireball fizzled out and fell onto the ground.

Komari stared at the ground and mumbled with her raucous voice.

“I-I’m going to cry. …G-Go away.”

She held the extinguished firework and whispered in a nearly inaudible voice.

“Please…”


I went back to the hostel silently and sat on the bench in the lobby. I pulled open the ring of the canned coffee, yet I was not in the mood to drink it.

Everything that happened today is too fast for my brain and emotions.

The lights in the lobby are flickering.

I looked at the ceiling and thought about everyone.

The five of us had no interactions at all before. However, we still came to the same place like this.

What will happen after this trip?

Yanami and Yakishio aren’t really interested in the Literature Club either. They are like birds that are resting when it’s raining. Perhaps they will fly away once the sky clears.

Komari will probably stop showing up because of her awkward stance. On the other hand, Prez and senpai may have the same idea too.

The closing ceremony is next week. What will happen to the lunch promise between Yanami and me?

I took a sip of the coffee.

-and thought about what kind of novel I should write.

*

We all gathered up in the meeting room on the morning of the second day.

“Well, I’ll go submit the first chapter.”

Prez knocked on the laptop. The enter key made a clear noise.

Chapter 1 of my first submission, <The Runaways of the First Love Path> is published.

“It feels different from the summary you gave me earlier.”

I guess Prez’s comment can’t be helped. After all, the summary was still about a quiet life in another world yesterday. Right now, it’s a rom-com based on a shopping district in a small city. I’m actually the most surprised one.

“I suddenly have the urge to write this.”

I just wrote the very beginning. You can finish it within 3 minutes.

“I want to write little by little according to my rhythm.”

“I think it’s nice. Right, someone already commented on Yanami-san’s novel yesterday.”

“Eh? Really?”

Yanami looked at the screen as she took a bite of her breakfast melon bread. She’s reading it excitedly. After that, Yanami chuckled and looked at me with a smile.

“This is written by Nukumizu-kun, right?”

“Eh, well, yes.”

It feels a bit embarrassing. Shouldn’t the author be more embarrassed? It’s quite unbelievable for the readers to handle this.

“Hmph, I feel happy. What is this score thing?”

“Uh, the score is based on whether the readers bookmarked or commented on the novel. Someone left feedback for you.”

Prez moved the mouse as he was slurping the jelly.

“T-That should be me.”

Komari walked into the meeting room with her tracksuit. The room returned to silence due to the confusion.

Komari ignored the mood and walked straight to Prez.

“…Good morning, Komari-chan.”

“G-Good morning. I-I’ve already sent my novel to Prez. …P-Please help me publish it.”

Komari lowered her head. Prez nodded slightly stiffly before pulling the laptop back to himself.

“The main text and, …these are the title and the intro, right? Alright, it’s all done.”

Prez’s hand stopped just as he was about to add the title to the text.

“Komari-chan. Are you sure this is okay?”

“Yes, this title is okay.”

Komari gulped and continued.

“P-Please don’t split the content too. I-I want to read Chapter 1 like this.”

She said that in one sitting.

Facing Komari’s serious eyes, Prez’s expression finally calmed down.

“I got it. I guess you’re right. It’s a better way to show the good points about Komari-chan’s novel.”

He faced the laptop again after smiling at Komari gently.

“Alright, the submission is complete. Look, it’s out on the new releases page.”

Komari stared at the screen and chuckled cheerfully. She faced Prez again with the same smile.

“T-Thank you. I-I’m not sure about this website. P-Please continue to teach me from now on.”

“Yeah, leave it to me.”

This is the first time I’ve seen this side of Komari. Even though she always looks at me like I’m a piece of moist trash.

Then, there’s someone who hasn’t done anything yet. Tsukinoki-senpai has been really quiet since morning. She sat at the table far away from ours.

Komari clenched and released her fist repeatedly before sitting in front of Tsukinoki-senpai. She looked a bit insane.

“G-Good morning, s-senpai.”

“G-Good morning, Komari-chan.”

After that, both of them went silent. Just as the heavy silence was enveloping the room, Komari spoke up.

“I-I’ve already submitted my novel. Please read it.”

“Uh, …I’ll leave feedback.”

“T-Thank you.”

…They went quiet again.

The suspense kept up for some time. Komari spoke up.

“U-Uh, p-please come to the club tomorrow too. I-I’ll be lonely if s-senpai isn’t there.”

Komari lowered her head embarrassedly and continued.

“A-Also, that scary person from the student council will show up.”

“Y-Yes! Leave it to me. I’ll help you kick her out!”

Tsukinoki-senpai’s smile finally reappeared. However, just as I was thinking that, huge drops of tears started falling from her eyes.

“Ugh, …ha? Sorry, I can’t hold back there. Eh?”

Komari quickly sat next to senpai.

“S-Senpai, I’ll be fine. So.”

“Komari-chan, …I thought you wouldn't be here anymore. Thank you, …thank you.”

Komari hugged Tsukinoki-senpai as she broke down in tears.

Tsukinoki-senpai calmed down after a while. She wiped her eyes and raised her head.

“…Komari-chan’s novels have always been interesting. I’m looking forward to it this time too.”

“T-Thank. D-Did senpai not write anything?”

“Well, if I make it into a General Audience version, it’ll end in 20 lines.”

Tsukinoki-senpai said that as she looked at her phone confusedly.

“Isn’t making this like my novel is nothing but lewdness?”

No, that’s the truth, right? The numbers won’t lie.

“S-Senpai, let’s go.”

“Oh, sure.”

…The two of them held each other’s hands as they walked to everyone’s table. Prez greeted them with a smile.

Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s a happy ending. Tamaki-senpai and Tsukinoki-senpai started going out, and Komari was rejected. This fact will never change.

Things won’t be the same anymore. We can only construct new relationships one step at a time. I just decided to distance myself from this, but other people live in this way. There’s no escape as long as you’re alive.

Eventually, I’ll have to make decisions like this one day. After all, I’m already included in everyone’s relationships.

Something weird popped up in my mind as I looked at Prez. I feel like they are moving far away from me. At this moment, somebody handed me a piece of paper.

“Here, Nukumizu-un. Can you put this on that website thing?”

Her tan got even darker even when only a day had passed.

“Is this a picture diary?”

“Yes, there are colored pencils in the lobby. I drew a picture diary with that.”

She drew the scene on the beach yesterday. Eh, who’s this guy that fell onto the ground? The person next to him is exactly Yakishio.

“Wait, is this me?”

“Hehe, you’re correct. This is Nukkun.”

It looks like Yakishio’s pulling a corpse.

“Oh, isn’t this nice? It’s funny.”

Prez mumbled quietly after taking a look.

“But this can’t be uploaded to the website. It’s a place for words, after all.”

“Well, why don’t we make a Twitter account for the Literature Club?”

Prez clapped after hearing my suggestion.

“This is nice. We have an account that was unused for a long time. Let’s use that one.”

Tsukinoki-senpai sniffed and took the picture diary.

“I think there’s a scanner in the office. I’ll ask them to let us use it. You should come too, Komari-chan.”

Tsukinoki-senpai led Yakishio away from the room.

I casually read my own novel on my phone. It’s already published online. It feels quite unrealistic.

“Oh, somebody already left me a comment.”

I clicked on it nervously, and I realized it was the lowest score. There’s only one comment: “A virgin’s fantasy.”

Huh!? What an impolite person. Can I blacklist this guy?

…No, wait. How the hell did this person know I’m a virgin?

“Komari, …did you write this?”

Komari smiled mischievously.

“I-I’ll change my mind i-if you write the later parts properly.”

“…Witness me. I’ll make you give me a 10/10.”



Intermission – Even if you don’t turn back, she’s there


A group of teenagers gathered up in the canteen of the hostel.

Among them, there’s a girl with very outstanding white hair. She looked at the paper stuck onto the wall leisurely.

<Toyohashi City Student Council League – High School Middle School Joint Trip>

The 2nd year secretary of Tsuwabuki High School, Yumeko Shikiya, is waiting for her lunch.

She’s wearing white contacts. Her eyes are observing the hardworking kouhais.

One of the students attracted her. The girl in an apron is working actively.

She’s in charge of handing out the curry. Her speed of pouring rice and curry into plates is faster than people lining up.

She made sure to give the hungry boys more curry. The opposite goes for the girls.

Shikiya casually took a plate used by a guy. A smile appeared on her face.

…She still gave her a girl’s amount despite using a boy’s plate.

When distributing the rice, the girl will carefully smooth out the rice grains. After that, she slightly spread the rice flat before pouring curry on it. The lower part is hidden inside.

“Girls, please wait at this table. I’ll start handing out salads now.”

“You…sure work hard…”

The girl was surprised when Shikiya spoke up. She stared at Shikiya’s exposed shoulders and belly.

“Erotic…”

“…Eh, …what…?”

“It’s nothing. I just feel like students in Tsuwabuki High School really know how to dress maturely.”

“People…always say that.”

The girl handed out the salads to other schools’ students as she arranged the orders. Under the girl’s guidance, preparations for dinner are going smoothly.

“Do you wish…to get in our school…?”

“Yes, my onii-san is a 1st year in Tsuwabuki High School. We can go to school together the year after.”

The girl smiled charmingly. After taking off the towel on her head, a stream of beautiful black hair flowed down.

“I heard many precious conversations today. Can I ask you more about your high school later?”

“Sure, …if you don’t mind, …want to sit with me?”

The girl looked in the direction that Shikiya pointed. The student council president of Tsuwabuki High School, Hibari Hokobaru, is waving at them.

“I would love to. I’ll go ask for permission now.”

The girl tidied her apron as she looked around the room. Everyone has a plate of curry rice.

“By the way, …did you make something in the afternoon. …Red bean rice balls…?”

“Yes, I made some as greetings.”

The girl raised her finger mysteriously.

“I see. …Right, I’m…the secretary of Tsuwabuki High School’s student council, …Yumeko Shikiya. Yours…?”

The petite girl smiled as she held a plate filled with curry.

“I'm on the committee of Momozono Middle School’s student council, Kajyu Nukumizu. Looking forward to working with you, senpai.”


[Someone sent me a PM about this. Yes, the illustrator, Imigimuru is the author of the manga This Art Club Has a Problem!.]



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