Thursday, March 10, 2022

Please Leave Me Alone V2 Prologue & Chapter 1


Translator: Pingas












Visiting a girl’s house is a must when it comes to rom-coms.

Seeing the FMC in pajamas when visiting her during a cold, walking into your extremely close childhood friend’s room, there are all kinds of scenes. Sometimes, there are even mysterious plots like going into the bath with the FMC’s father.

At this point, let’s take a moment and think about this calmly. Isn’t going into the bath with someone you don’t know well a hellish event? Rom-com MCs are too strong.

Of course, guys go to girls’ houses in reality as well. However, this scenario is definitely a scene I browsed in a fiction novel for me.

For example, you thought your childhood friend was a boy, but then you discovered she’s actually a girl. Your parents made you live with her. You two keep fighting each other during the student council election. You share a secret with a beautiful girl after some ridiculous events. Somehow, a beautiful girl is treating a gloomy character warmly.

All of these are scenes that can appear.

It’s not like I have no experience with the latter ones I listed. However, they have nothing to do with what’s happening right now. Let’s talk about this later.

Of course, I never had the chance to visit a girl’s house in my last 3 years of high school life. Come to think of it, I never went to a guy’s house as well. Even if you expand the definition of “going to someone’s house" to maximum, the best I did was giving a circuit board back to my neighbor. Even I think this was expanding it too much.

However, even if I have the lowest points in interpersonal relationships to the point where I’m excluded from statistics, the day is finally here.

Today, I have the groundbreaking chance of appearing in a girl’s house!

Of course, I’m not involved in some sort of crime, nor did I pay to get in. I formally asked for the girl’s permission. Shouldn’t that be obvious?

I really didn’t expect such activity to befall me in real life. Right now, my mind feels like, “Hey, I’ve done this question before!” It’s a great thing that I've read rom-com light novels beforehand.

Well, if you’re asking me, who’s rapidly rising on the world’s normie rank, for my feedback.

…Can someone come to save me!? This is seriously so exhausting!

The room I’m in right now is filled with illustrations of 2D girls. The bookshelves are full of colorful light novels and mangas. It’s very much an otaku’s room.

As for the person sitting before me, he’s a very sunny, frivolous guy.

“Well? Which part of my little sister do you like?”

This frivolous person in front of me is the owner of the room. He leaned forward and asked me. His eyes are filled with interest.

Right, I’m not in a girl’s room right now. It’s this flighty dude instead.

It’s not guaranteed that I’ll be in a girl’s room even if I’m in a girl’s house. It’s not even sure that I’ll be with a girl. At this point, I painfully realized how tragic reality is. This must be the so-called narrative trap, right?

“No, that’s not true…”

My expression must look exhausted, and I don’t want to hide it either. Yet, the frivolous guy in front of me is laughing cheerfully. He’s smacking the armrest on his chair.

“Alright, alright, no need to be shy! We’re buddies!”

“That’s not what you say to a person you just met, right…?”

“Don’t be so stubborn.”

“You too. Don’t try to make me spill the beans so smoothly, alright…?”

“What do you mean by spilling the beans smoothly!?”

My emotions are so low that I feel I leave a “…” every time I speak. Well, please don’t be so strict on me today. A lone wolf without experience in relationships always flats out immediately when talking to a person with an unmatching wavelength.

Initially, I was already in a super hostile place that is another person’s house. My HP and MP are slowly being chipped away.

I sighed internally and thought about the absent culprit’s face.

By the way, the culprit that brought me here is the gal in my class, Ruri Hoshigasaki.




It’s an afternoon of a Saturday in early June.

Today, even though I rarely go outside during weekends, I’m standing in front of a slightly old apartment.

This area officially entered the rainy season yesterday. As for today, it started raining afternoon. The Bureau of Meteorology gained a lot of prestige back. The gloomy corridor is filled with the sound of rain. It feels like I’m walking in a tunnel.

I checked the “Hoshigasaki” nameplate hanging next to the door. I put the tip of my finger onto the doorbell gently.

I remained in this pose for 2 to 3 seconds.

“What’s wrong? Nanamura-kun.”

The person who expressed her confusion behind is my classmate, Sora Hanamitsuji. We went back in time due to all kinds of reasons.

 Today, her fluffy, curly hair is still accompanied by a beautiful hairpin.

Although she was in sportswear during the trip, she’s wearing a shirt dress with a ribbon on the chest part today. The low-top rain boots look good on her. The adorable light green umbrella in her hands is dripping with raindrops. I always admire that her aura changes based on what she wears. I don’t like dressing up, so I only have clothes that barely fit the requirements. I’m the guy who gives up and goes outside in a school uniform during weekends.

My eyes returned to the doorbell after glancing at her.

“Well, I don’t know whether I should press the bell.”

“Do we have steps before pressing the bell!? By the way, stop trying to run away if you’re here already.”

“But this is my first time coming to a girl’s house.”

“Didn’t you come to my house after the entrance ceremony?”

“The shrine doesn’t count, right? I didn’t even see the ‘Hanamitsuji’ nameplate.”

I feel like it’s too much to include that into visiting a girl’s house. Even if someone is running a cake shop, you can’t say you visited their house just because you bought a cake from them, right?

Well, let’s leave that for later.

Right now, we’re in front of my classmate Ruri Hoshigasaki’s house.

Yesterday, Hanamitsuji and I finished holding our reflection meeting in the family restaurant after school. Hoshigasaki invited me on Line. <Can you come to my house later?>

Obviously, my mind went blank upon seeing the Line message. Hanamitsuji also asked, “What. Is. This?” next to me until I understood what that meant. I was the one who wanted to know the most, okay?

However, I wasn’t dumb enough to yell, “Ohh! I got invited into a girl’s house! Yahoo!” I knew the happiness wasn’t real.

The brain that got me first place in the test, along with the 3 years of high school I previously had, formed this lone wolf’s mindset. I easily saw through that there must be something else behind this invitation!

Actually, Hoshigasaki and I made a connection after a small incident earlier. We shared something in common when we knew our light novel interests were similar. I’ve heard that she also chats with Hanamitsuji on Line as well. They are totally good friends now.

However, the relationship between Hoshigasaki and I is we share the same hobby at most. Even though she sends me a couple of Line texts from time to time, we’ve rarely seen each other privately. Also, we didn’t even hang out together during the trip.

Of course, I’m just a nameless dude among the sea of high school boys. If someone confesses to me, I think I can genuinely accept it. It’s just that there’s no sign for a romance scene now. A depressed dude who overthinks as soon as he has a little contact with a girl is miserable. I understand that.

Therefore, recently, I have increased my defense further. After all, I will be the one who’s suffering from depression from voided expectations.

If the person is interested in love, she even calls an unfamiliar guy into her house. Even if you’re really energetic and determined about it, that’s not the order of things to work. I bet she has other reasons, anyway.

So, at that time, I understood it already. “I bet she’s going to drag me into trouble again.”

Did I want to reject her? Yes. However, is it too rude if she went out of her way to invite me? Acquiring more references for my light novel is a good reason. I felt like I could go. Also, Hoshigasaki helped me when I was searching for Hanamitsuji during the trip. I guess it’s a nice opportunity to return the favor, right…?

Screw it. I’ll be honest.

Initially, my brain indeed went blank after seeing the message. However, after the excitement had cooled down, I understood what it meant. The first thing that ran over my head was cheerful screams like, “Woooo! I’ve seen this in rom-coms!”

I pretended to be calm since Hanamitsuji was next to me. However, my brain was already playing all kinds of instruments. In my mind, I did a victory pose as I dashed across the finish line, yet I continued running to show off my big W. The imagined audience all rose up and gave me a hurricane of applause filled with congratulations. Are we already in the finale now?

Hiya, it can’t be helped. I’m a healthy high school guy. It’s hard not to imagine things when I have the opportunity to visit a girl’s house. While I did have a bad feeling afterward, I was really happy for a short moment after receiving the invitation.

I comforted Hanamitsuji, who was totally suspicious of my relationship with Hoshigasaki, as I answered, <I’m free during the weekend.> To a girl, this must be a subtle way of saying, “I’m totally okay!” I bet this narrative expression must find its way into future Japanese lessons.

It’s fine even if there’s trouble! I’m okay with you selling me one or two pots! I can buy all of them! It’s already a big profit when I get to enter a high school girl’s house!

…I have to say I was an idiot who only knew daydreaming for even thinking about that.

The reason why Hoshigasaki called me here is clear, even though it’s today.

Oh, right, Hanamitsuji came here after seeing Hoshigasaki’s invitation. She was very upset after seeing the message on Line for some reason. It took me a long time to explain everything to her.

Phew, take a deep breath. My consciousness returned to the cold sensation on the tip of my finger again.

“I’m really going to press it, okay? Can I?”

“You don’t need to confirm with me at every step. I won’t tell you to stop.”

“…Eh, wait? Are SECOM and ALSOK in this apartment too?” [TL: They are national-grade security companies that helped in the Tokyo Olympics.]

“The parts that you pay attention to are exactly the same as a criminal’s.”

“Will I get arrested if I pressed a girl’s house’s doorbell? I’m scared.”

“Arrest what!? What laws did you break!?”

“It’s better for me to dress up as a delivery guy or mailman.”

“That’s exactly what a criminal thinks when he’s in the act! Ah- you’re such a pain in the ass!”

A hand from behind was rapidly pressed on my finger. The bell rang.

Ding. A refreshing sound played that totally didn’t match how I felt. Someone answered behind the door, ‘Com-ing.”

“Hey, don’t make decisions for me! I’m still not mentally prepared-“

“It’s already nighttime when Nanamura-kun is prepared.”

We quietly argued with each other. The door was unlocked and gradually opened as well.

“Hey, thanks for coming! Nanamura, Sora-chan!”

Hoshigasaki is standing next to the door with a bright smile. As usual, her long, blonde hair is tied to the side. However, her oversized shirt and grey culottes give off an even lazier vibe than in school. She doesn’t have that delicate makeup in school upon a closer look. I think.

“Come in.”

“O-Oh. …Well, excuse me.”

“Welcome.”

Even though I received an invitation to enter someone’s house, I still felt pretty startled crossing the entrance.

“Excuse me. Hoshigasaki-san, where should I put the umbrella?”

“Oh, just put it in the umbrella stand over there.”

The entrance is pretty tidy. A few pairs of shoes are placed to the side. Hoshigasaki took some towels from the top of the shoe shelf and handed them to us.

“You two must be soaked, right? Use this to wipe your heads and other parts!”

“Thanks, that’s considerate.”

Hoshigasaki shook her head and smiled bitterly after hearing that.

“I’m sorry for today, Nanamura. Onii-chan really forced you here.”

Yes. I’m here because Hoshigasaki’s brother wants to see me.

Also, he included, “I want to read Nanamura’s novel as well.”

“Isn’t he a weird guy? He actually wants to see Nanamura-kun’s novel.”

Hanamitsuji casually insulted me after she knew my weak points. Hoshigasaki also bitterly smiled as she answered.

“After onii-chan and I talked about Nanamura, he said he wants to see this person’s novel. Bring him here.”

Ahaha. Hoshigasaki laughed bitterly, but the premise is wrong, right?

“It’s fine for you two to talk about me if we take a hundred steps back, but why did you say I’m writing novels!? I told you girls to keep this as a secret, right!?”

“Oh, we kind of just spilled it as we spoke…”

“You too, Hanamitsuji. You weren’t even trying to keep my secret at all, right?”

“Not entirely. I just felt like it didn’t matter whether I say it or not.”

“Your defenses are too low! At least think about it before spilling the secret!”

“Isn’t that nice too? Nanamura-kun’s secrets are supposed to be exposed, anyway, right?”

“There aren’t any secrets like that in the world.”

Hanamitsuji spoke casually from behind. Hey, come to think of it, you spilled the secret to Hoshigasaki. You’re the culprit, alright?

After talking about why Hoshigasaki called me here on Line yesterday, Hanamitsuji showed great interest. “I want to go too!” Hoshigasaki agreed. “I’m fine with that!” Both of us then visited her house.

I brought the novel draft that received serious critique from the two girls in the family restaurant. My heart feels so heavy right now.

“Are you doing well these days?”

“My body is fine, but my mind has a lot of issues.”

I really wanted to run away after knowing why she called me here. However, a text was sent to me Line, <Onii-chan said he’ll come to get you in school if Nanamura doesn’t show up in the house.> I couldn’t do anything. Getting someone at the school entrance, are you an old delinquent? This counts as mild intimidation, right?

“Nanamura-kun doesn’t have anything to do. Don’t mind it.”

“This is a fact, but it really pisses me off when Hanamitsuji says it!”

I wiped my shoulders and backpack dry as Hoshigasaki led us across the corridor. There’s no noise from the living room. Her parents must be out, right?

Hoshigasaki stopped in front of the door in the corridor.

Hanamitsuji and I looked at the door. There’s no nameplate on it, but this is her brother’s room, right?

“Nanamura, did your face just freeze?”

“I can’t help but get nervous when I’m meeting a stranger…”

“It’s okay. Onii-chan is an otaku as well.”

“Ah, Hoshigasaki said that he dragged you into the world of light novels.”

“Right. It’s because I was really timid when I was little. I often stayed in the house alone with onii-chan as well. He really influenced me a lot.”

She bitterly smiled at the door. It’s clear that the siblings’ relationship is still very good. There’s no way they would’ve talked about me otherwise, not to mention bringing a classmate to her home.

However, I didn’t expect Hoshigasaki was a timid child. Well, now that she has said it. I think she couldn’t speak up properly when Sakado started bothering her. Perhaps she’s not a talkative person at the start.

Ah, now’s not the time for that. The problem is how I should get past Hoshigasaki’s brother.

“Well, this shouldn’t be problematic because he’s an otaku. …Alright.”

An insignificant person with plain clothes came into my mind. That’s the type of people I always find in the light novel/doujin store I often visit.

Yes, he shouldn’t be hard to deal with, maybe. People like me always nod a few times when we’re giving way in that bookstore’s narrow paths.

“Onii-chan, I’m opening the door.”

Hoshigasaki knocked on the door. “Okay.” Someone answered.

She urged me to open the door with her eyes. The first thing that came into view was the wooden desk filled with grains next to the wall. The walls are full of illustrations of 2D girls. The bookshelf is filled with all kinds of colorful light novels and mangas. The short table in the center of the room has several kirara-kei mangas that received anime adaptations. [TL: Kirara-kei is kind of like yuri but focuses more on the slice-of-life part instead of romance. Examples are K-On, Laid-back Camp, and Yuri Yuri.]

It’s clearly a dead-ass otaku’s room, no matter how I look at it. It’s just that there’s a being that totally doesn’t belong in here.

A young man is sitting on the wheeled chair before the desk. His merry face matches insanely well with his bright brown hair. He immediately released his infinitely refreshing aura upon seeing me.

He’s a solid sunny character. I’ll be honest and say he’s frivolous.

“Ohh, you must be Nanamura-kun. I’m-“

Bam.

I closed the door that was barely opened. Phew, I exhaled. Hoshigasaki looked at the door and me dumbfoundedly.

“Eh? Nanamura, why did you close the door!?”

“Hoshigasaki, you got the wrong room.”

“This is my house, though!?”

“But there’s a flighty dude who looks like your boyfriend inside.”



“He’s not! By the way, boy- I don’t have a boyfriend yet!”

Hoshigasaki answered me angrily, but I just had to get it off my chest.

“It was way different from my imagination. I was completely startled! Even though I’m 10% responsible since I let my guard down when you said he’s an otaku…”

“You’re almost not admitting your mistakes at all, right?”

“But that sunny aura clearly shows that he’s not an otaku, right? This is against the Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations.”

“Aren’t Nanamura too biased toward otakus!?”

Hoshigasaki listened to my complaint. She sighed exhaustedly. Hanamitsuji is behind me too. She mumbled, “Sheesh, what are you doing?”

“Onii-chan’s appearance is indeed a bit frivolous, but he loves light novels more than I do. Moreover, I care about how I look as well. You won’t know I’m actually an otaku from the outside.”

“Well, you’re right…”

Hoshigasaki was a sunny gal the first time I saw her. She was the kind of person I didn’t want to get involved with ever. However, I didn’t expect her brother to be the same too. Being blood-related is terrifying.

Although I’m used to talking to Hanamitsuji and Hoshigasaki, speaking to another extremely sunny extrovert tires me out. My mental strength is already draining bit by bit when I’m close. Even if he’s as gloomy as I do, the tiredness doesn’t get better.

Even so, we can’t just stand in front of the door talking. There’s no turning back when we’re here.

I made up my mind and gently opened the door again.

The frivolous dude on his seat looked at me, surprised. He hmphed for a little.

“What was that? Whatever, I’m Ruri’s brother, Kouya. Nice to meet you.”

Bam!

“Hey, why did you close it again!?”

“T-This is because…”

“Why can’t you just give up struggling!?”

“I can’t help it! An older sunny character is very scary!”

“Scary!? You’re talking non-sense, Nanamura!”

The door opened by itself when we were squabbling. Hoshigasaki’s brother showed his face.

“What’s wrong? You guys kept opening and closing the door. …Are you all trying to pretend those door pranks on <Geinojin Kakudzuke Chekku>?” [TL: The rough translation is Celebrity Rating Check. It’s basically a show where celebrities try to identify whether something is expensive or not. After that, they have to go into rooms to wait for the hosts to announce the result. This process can be incredibly nervous. Also, since the correct and wrong rooms are next to each other, some hosts will open and close the door repeatedly to freak the celebrities out.]

Hoshigasaki’s brother came to the corridor. His eyes opened slightly wider upon seeing Hanamitsuji and me.

“Oh-ho, it’s not just Nanamura-kun? Nice to meet you both. I’m Ruri’s brother, Kouya.”

“W-Well, I’m Hoshigasaki’s classmate, Nanamura. Ah, Hodaka Nanamura.”

“I’m sorry for suddenly calling you here. No need to be polite.”

“Oh, sure.”

From what Hoshigasaki said, Kouya-san is a sophomore. He’s slightly taller than me. His body is on the thinner side, but not like skinny thin. Upon a closer look, he looks just like Hoshigasaki. I bet he must be popular, right? There is something transparent on his ears that looks like ear studs. I asked Hoshigasaki afterward, and she told me it was to prevent the holes from healing themselves.

His appearance is oozing frivolity, yet he has his manners. I consider him a polite person.

“How about this one? Nanamura-kun’s girlfriend?”

Kouya-san suddenly turned to Hanamitsuji. She waved her hands awkwardly.

“N-No! I’m Ruri-san’s friend. I’m Hanamitsuji. I just wanted to use this opportunity to have fun in Ruri-san’s place. Sorry for not asking you beforehand. …Are you alright with this?”

“Ahh! I’ve heard about you from Ruri. Welcome.”

After hearing that, Hanamitsuji looked at Hoshigasaki with a smile.

“Hoshigasaki-san, you two have talked about me too?”

“Of course! Sora-chan is my important friend, after all!”

“No, …whatever.”

Hanamitsuji shrugged for a bit. Perhaps what she didn’t say was, “You two are close enough to mention me?” This is also what I’m thinking. 

Kouya-san must have worked hard to take care of the timid Hoshigasaki in the past. As of now, the siblings have maintained a rather close relationship, right? It’s probably not just light novels. Perhaps her fashion taste is influenced by her brother too.

Kouya-san heard Hanamitsuji’s answer. He put his hand on his chin and looked into the distance.

“It’s been a long time since Ruri brought a friend home. I think the last time was in elementary?”

“Ah, I can just see my friends from school outside, anyway. It’s a bit awkward for them to see my room. …By the way, onii-chan! We’re talking about Nanamura, right.”

Very well, the conversation is slowly diverting away from me. I thought we could just kill time with this. Regrettably, Hoshigasaki brought us back to the track.

“Hmm, I was planning for everyone in my room to talk, but it’s not appropriate to invite girls into my room, right?”

Kouya-san said something that a frivolous guy without common sense would ever say. Ohh, can we just chill in the living room this way? I’ll feel much less isolated. …That’s what I thought.

“Ah, then Sora-chan can go to my room. Onii-chan can do whatever you want.”

Hoshigasaki easily voided my expectation.

“I see. Very well, I want to talk to Nanamura-kun alone as well.”

“Hey, what are we talking about?”

“Alright, Nanamura-kun, follow me.”

“Hey, wait.”

Kouya-san pushed my back forcefully with a cheerful face. I couldn’t even muster up my voice and yell, “Molester!” I was brought into the room at once.

“Well, Hanamitsuji-san. Have fun.”

“Thanks.”

*

Hoshigasaki’s brother pointed at the cushion in front of the short table. “Sorry, there’s one chair only. Sit over there.” He urged me chicly.

Instinctively, I tried to sit as far away from the owner of this house. Yet, he pointed out, “Can we talk properly if you sit there?” Therefore, I unwillingly sat in front of him.

The reason is the same. If it’s possible, I hope there’s a physical distance between me and an unfamiliar extrovert. For example, a first-met extrovert is like an alien to me. Do you think an astronaut will charge blindly to an alien?

After I sat down, Hoshigasaki’s brother showed a gentle smile. Even though he looks frivolous, he cares about younger people like us. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. It’s just that I can’t talk to him naturally.

I thought about escaping from this uncomfortableness as I spoke up without hesitation.

“W-Well, Hoshigasaki-san.”

“Right, who are you calling?”

“Ha?”

I thought he suddenly didn’t understand Japanese. Yet, this Kouya-san swirled his finger left and right and said, “Tck, tck.” This pose kind of pisses me off.

“Ruri and I are both in the house right now. There are two ‘Hoshigasaki-san’ here, right?”

T-This is such a pain in the ass. …I thought about that, but I can’t say it out loud, right? I utilized all of my mental strength to suppress my sigh.

“No, you’re the only Hoshigasaki-san in front of me right now.”

“Hey, Ruri! Nanamura-kun called you! He said he must tell you something!”

Kouya-san suddenly opened the door and yelled. I’ve seen this in rom-coms before, but this happening in reality just annoys me!

Hoshigasaki came after a few seconds. She handed a plastic bottle to Kouya-san.

“I found this one in the fridge. It’s for Nanamura, right?”

“Oh, right. Thanks. You two can drink whatever you want in the fridge. There’s iced beer too.”

“We’re not legal yet, okay?”

Kouya-san looked at the plastic bottle. Hoshigasaki went over his shoulders and stared at me. Her bitter smile seemed like she was comforting me, “Don’t mind it.” After that, Kouya-san closed the door and came back here.

“This is for Nanamura-kun.”

“…Thanks.”

I took the cola and chugged it. It’s filled with bubbles. Kouya-san then cleared his throat and spoke up properly.

“So, you can call me Kouya-san, or even Kouya.”

“Why did you just yell?”

“This belongs to my plan of making you say my first name by telling, ‘We have people with the same last name here, okay?’ When my little sister’s friends visit the house, this is the third thing I want to do the most.”

“What’s the first and second one?”

“Anyway, call me Kouya-san. Seriously. We can’t tell who’s who from last name alone.”

“…Kouya-san.”

“Very well, I shall call you Hodaka then.”

“Uh, sure…”

I feel like we just skipped to him calling my first name. How did he shorten our distance by suddenly calling a person he just met by his first name? A gloomy character like me has genetic differences with him, right?

Only super handsome MCs from light novels or mangas can be forgiven when they do that. …No, from Kouya-san’s appearance, I bet it works in real-life for him too. I bet a girl must’ve already fallen for him by now. However, unfortunately, I’m a guy. My heart won’t go all flutter just because my first name is called.

I don’t know whether Kouya-san knows my frustration. He looked around the room and laughed.

“As you can see, I also love light novels, mangas, and anime too. I hope you can put your guard down.”

“H-Ha.”

It looks like this person is really good at creating rivalries among girls in the Tennis Club or Light Music Club. …I observed the room with a heart full of bias. Then, I saw a black guitar box in the corner. Alright, -1 point. I bet that’s how he picks up kouhais in the Light Music Club. The tennis racket is on the other side. -1 more point. I can’t believe he’s revealing his fangs to kouhais in the Tennis Club as well…

“Are you thinking about something that’s really impolite to me?”

“You’re overthinking.”

Kouya-san noticed my weird look and asked me with a bitter smile.

“Anyway, let’s get to the chase. Hodaka, you’re writing light novels, right?”

“Uh, I guess.”

“Oh, even though I haven’t been writing things like this, I still want to read a light novel by an acquaintance. My dream is to pick on them from a higher position with a smug face.”

“What a terrible dream…”

“Alright, alright, at least trust my opinion developed from reading light novels. Also, isn’t third-party comments important during the creation?”

Kouya-san reached his hand out full of interest. I sighed internally and took the draft out of my backpack. Hanamitsuji and Hoshigasaki had already stomped this light novel to the ground, yet I still have to let another person read it. This is too harsh even for a punishment game, right? However, I have already stepped into an activity where I will lose. I should give up struggling.

…How is coming to a girl’s house an activity where I will lose? I’m very salty.

“Well, how should I put it? Please.”

“Leave it to me.”

*

Kouya-san read the draft silently for a while. I could only imagine what were Hanamitsuji and Hoshigasaki doing in their room.

Come to think of it, hanging out alone with a classmate’s brother while he is reading my light novel is super weird, right? This is as awkward as taking a bath with the FMC’s father.

I don’t want to stay here any longer, but I can’t just leave. All I can do is just cleanse my mind and wait for Kouya-san to finish.

30 minutes later, Kouya-san finally raised his head and sighed.

“Phew. I’m done.”

“I-I see. Well, your feedback…”

“Well.”

I gulped nervously and asked him. Kouya-san crossed his arms together. His expression is imposing.

“Well, …hmm, how should I put it?”

Kouya-san hesitated. Then, he finally made up his mind and stood up. After that, he took a light novel from the table and handed it to me with a refreshing smile.

“Right, Hodaka. Did you read the light novel by GA Bunko last month?”

“What a terrible way to change the topic!”

It’s the same reaction as Hoshigasaki when she read my draft last time!

“Sorry, sorry. Hiya, I didn’t know some works are a headache to comment on.”

“I already understand what you mean. Please stop commenting.”

“Well, it’s amazing that a first-year high school student can write this much. Yep.”

“Gurk.”

I came back from 3 years later. My mental age is the same as a freshman! You siblings don’t need to give me the same comment! Why are you two emphasizing your relationship in times like this!?

…Naturally, I couldn’t say that. I could only moan quietly.

“Are Ruri still over there?”

Kouya-san suddenly asked. I nodded a bit confusedly. “I see…” Kouya-san mumbled. His face showed a tinge of seriousness.

Oh, is he planning to point out actual mistakes for me? But my HP is already zero.

“But, honestly, I’m not that kind of guy.”

This is the first time we’ve met. Both of us know nothing about each other’s personalities. Kouya-san wrapped his hands behind his head and sighed gently. He seems to be hesitating.

Don’t point out the mistakes if you feel so bad for them. I actually don’t need it. …Kouya-san put his hands on his kneecaps and lowered his head.

“It’s a bit too late, but I really appreciate you.”

“Eh?”

I couldn’t help but speak idiotically since I didn’t understand where this was going. Why did he thank me?

“Don’t tell me…you were just too embarrassed, and my novel is actually super interesting?”

“No, the novel is sincerely boring.”

The last tinge of hope I had left broke. What do you mean by sincerely boring? Normally, doesn’t “sincerely” means it’s interesting?

“Ruri told me about this before. You helped her in the classroom before, right? I think I have to thank you for that. I really appreciate what you did.”

Kouya-san’s face remained serious as he looked at me.

Ahh, I see. At this point, I finally understood what had been happening since yesterday. After all, it’s super unnatural to bring your little sister’s friend to your house just because he wrote a light novel.

“So, you just said you wanted to read my novel and brought me here.”

“Yes, otherwise, Ruri would say, ‘Onii-chan is taking this too seriously! By the way, this is my own business. Why does onii-chan have to thank on my behalf!?’ That’s why I didn’t say the reason.”

Even though their genders are different, Kouya-san’s imitation was so realistic that the real one will probably jump if she sees that.

“As her brother, I care a lot about Ruri. However, I can’t exactly step in when things involve school. I’m glad that Hodaka is supporting from the side.”

Kouya-san seemed to be embarrassed after such a detailed explanation. He turned his head around. A wave of guilt swept up from my back when I saw him like this.

I’m not a person who’s worthy of praise.

That’s what I’m thinking right now, but nothing will change even if I explain it to Kouya-san. So, I have no choice but to change the topic.

“…Hoshigasaki told you this much?”

“We’re close, after all.”

“Kouya-san is also a heavy siscon too.”

“Well, a brother is more or less a siscon.”

“Please don’t say things like this with such a refreshing smile.”

Well, but I’m close with my little sister Satsuki as well. I’m not going to pick a fight with him on this one. An older brother always worries about his little sister.

However, if I tell that to Satsuki, she’ll definitely say, “I’m worried about onii-chan’s future.” She’s going to look down on me. Onii-chan has feelings too, you know?

My mind is coming up with all sorts of thoughts. Kouya-san asked me with sparkling eyes.

“So? Which part of my little sister do you like?”

“No, that’s not what’s happening…”

Here we go again. That’s how an extrovert thinks when it comes to romance. Why do y’all always love shipping people together? Honestly, I don’t really understand. It’s enough to see plots like this in fictional rom-coms, right? Relationships in real life aren’t that clear. 

Our debate raged on for a while. He finally understood Hoshigasaki and I aren’t like that. Even though I’m still a bit irritated at Kouya-san’s gratified expression, I won’t complain if we can end this topic as soon as possible.

“Oh, right. With this opportunity, let’s exchange our Line.”

“Eh, why?”

Normally, I should’ve just gone for it and not overthink in times like this. Perhaps Kouya-san didn’t expect someone to ask him for a reason. He became lost in thought.

“It’s nothing. Right, please tell me if Ruri has a boyfriend.”

“What are you going to do if I do tell you?”

“I’ll see if this person matches Ruri.”

“Siscon…”

“That’s why I told you already.”

He sounded like he was joking, but Kouya-san’s eyes were serious. A siscon brother is terrifying.

After finishing the Line exchange that I’ve been getting used to these months, Kouya-san paid attention to the screen.

“Ohh, your Line icon is actually the default one. It’s been forever since I last saw one!”

“Why are you excited?”

“It’s because most people change icons, right? Yours is rare.”

Indeed, all of my family changed the icon except for me. Hanamitsuji and Hoshigasaki are also the same. However, I didn’t expect Kouya-san to be this surprised. Does changing your avatar even have a meaning in it? It comes with your name normally. Also, you’re looking for names instead of the avatars when you open up the chat, anyway.

Avatars only come in handy when it’s a social app with millions of users online at all times, like Twitter. However, Line is one-to-one or limited to a certain group. Who cares about your avatar?

“Did you just make an account?”

“I made it in middle school when I just got a phone.”

“It’s a natural memorial…”

“It’s embarrassing when you’re praising me.”

“I’m not praising. However, Ruri did say you’re the loneliest person she has ever met.”

“That girl is really impolite!”

Ha, I shook my head and sighed. I saw the light novel on the table. That’s the one Kouya-san talked about earlier, the new GA Bunko novel.

“…By the way, I’ve read that book before.”

“Eh? What did you say?”

“Didn’t you just say it? This is the new release from last month, right? Yeah, rom-coms are ever getting closer to the end as winter approaches.”

“Ohh! This one is amazing! I love when the main and second heroine has an intense struggle, and then a third one just shows up. The characters’ actions often turn stiff as drama is involved in rom-coms. However, in a good one, a side girl who’s a bit distant from the center really helps a lot.”

“It’s really scary when I actually see an otaku who talks fast suddenly…”

Actually, Kouya-san has read many light novels too. I grew interested as we chatted. Hoshigasaki came to check up on us an hour later. We had a pretty good time.

Indeed, having a common language is very useful for shortening distances.

I fully understand that. However, I’m not interested in the games or hot idols my classmates always talk about. In the end, I’m just not suited for building good relationships.

*

The rain stopped when we were about to leave Hoshigasaki’s house. Kouya-san greeted us from the room. The three of us walked toward the entrance.

Hanamitsuji’s expression was strangely unnatural when she was staring at her phone.

“What’s wrong?”

Hoshigasaki asked her worriedly. Hanamitsuji raised her head. She’s startled.

“I-It’s nothing. Forget about that. We have to deal with the rumor about Nanamura-kun and me on Monday.”

“Right, we’ve talked about that before.”

Hanamitsuji wrapped her hands around her head depressedly. Hoshigasaki gave her a bitter smile.

Hmm? The rumor between her and me?

A question mark popped out in my mind, but I immediately realized it. People saw Hanamitsuji and me hanging out together during the trip. Some troublesome rumors then got out.

Honestly, I was so worried about Kouya-san reading my novel that I totally forgot about this. It’s hard to say about Hanamitsuji since she has a lot of friends. However, a rumor like this doesn’t hurt a loner like me much.

“It’s kind of irritating to see Nanamura-kun putting out such a ‘none of my business’ face.”

“That’s how I look.”

Hanamitsuji sighed deeply. Even though I won’t suffer anything, I feel bad when she’s this depressed.



“Well, uh, sorry.”

“Don’t apologize to me. It’s just this is going to get a little bit troublesome…”

The rumor is spreading around because Hanamitsuji and I didn’t come up with a proper explanation.

We went on the trip on Thursday. The rumors were already spreading on Friday. We were scrambling our brains for a solution during the weekends. In other words, Hanamitsuji and I have yet to explain this to others. I can’t really blame the rumors that are spreading everywhere.

We went to the family restaurant for our reflection meeting on Friday after school. Yet, Hoshigasaki invited us to her house, where we are right now.

“People asked you for details on Friday, right? How did you answer?”

“There are a lot of rumors about whether we’re going out and being a couple. I denied all of them because I didn’t know what would Nanamura-kun say. That’s why I just gave a vague explanation.”

“I see. They were just whispering while watching me from afar.”

Since I was totally excluded from the class, I didn’t even have a chance to explain. To be fair, only Hoshigasaki and Shiramine asked me about it.

If possible, I want to talk about this with Hanamitsuji on Line. However, I don’t want her friends to see us texting each other.

“Right, Hoshigasaki heard the explanation, right?”

“Yeah, Nanamura left Prez’s group, and then Sora-chan came and asked you to go back angrily, right? Sora-chan ended up seeing bad guys. Nanamura then found out where Sora-chan was. She already told me beforehand. What a disaster.”

Even though this isn’t 100% true, I can’t explain our relationship to her. We couldn’t help but include some lies in between. Hoshigasaki helped me out when I was searching for Hanamitsuji. That’s the best explanation I could give, considering the flow of logic.

I already talked to Hanamitsuji yesterday. It looks like Hanamitsuji didn’t slip up when she was with her.

“I’ve already heard about it from Sora-chan. Can’t we just tell everyone like that?”

I shook my head.

“If that’s the case, doesn’t that mean I’ll have to explain how did I meet Hanamitsuji?”

“Ah, …things will be bad if the word that Sora-chan is also an otaku got out.”

Hanamitsuji’s face started twitching after hearing that. She has no business or knowledge in the otaku field. Yet, she started making things up for Hoshigasaki to accept her explanation.

Hanamitsuji stroked her curly hair and spoke up thoughtfully.

“Nanamura-kun and I left each of our groups. He accidentally bumped into me when I was in trouble with some bad guys, and he saved me. I guess this makes more sense, right?”

“Maybe.”

If people already saw what happened, Hanamitsuji and I can’t pretend we’ve never met. This is probably the most proper explanation.

Perhaps she’s glad that we now have a plan. Hanamitsuji’s expression lightened up. She put her hand on her chin.

“The remaining issue is how we should tell everybody. I’ll try to explain to everyone.”

“I-I’ll help as well! How about we just start telling everyone on Line today?”

Hoshigasaki raised her hand and offered her assistance. The so-called rumors always die down fast when there’s no follow-up. However, the more people can help, the less damage the protagonists in the rumors will take. Ignore me for a second. I’ll feel really bad if Hanamitsuji’s life is disturbed. It’s great that so many people agreed to help.

I’m the problem. Hanamitsuji and Hoshigasaki both have a lot of friends. Lil’ lonely me can’t do anything.

Even though I won’t be blamed because of this, I just feel guilty. …Ah.

An idea suddenly popped out of my mind. I asked the two girls.

“Hanamitsuji, Hoshigasaki, are you two free tomorrow?”

“Right, now’s not the time to play with friends.”

“I have work until 1 PM. I’ll be free after that.”

“I want to tell someone about this. Can we meet up at the usual family restaurant at 1:30 PM?”

Both of them nodded in confusion.

*

After getting home, I bumped into my little sister Satsuki before the washstand. Satsuki probably just went to hang out with her friends too. She’s washing her hands in casual clothes.

“Welcome back, onii-chan. Here.”

“Thanks.”

Satsuki moved to the side and let me use the tap. I reached my hand out.

I stared at Satsuki when she was wiping her hands. She noticed me and gave me a puzzled look.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing. Did you dry your hands properly?”

“Uwah, I’m already in middle school. Stop treating me as a kid. Onii-chan is just as annoying as Dad.”

“Don’t use Dad as the standard of being annoying. Parents everywhere will be very upset, you know?”

“That’s because Dad always asks things like, ‘Did you bring your keys? Handkerchief and paper towels?’ I’m not in elementary school.”

Satsuki frowned helplessly. I turned off the tap with a bitter smile.

I understand how annoyed Satsuki must feel for being overprotected. But, honestly, I understand how Dad wants to keep her safe too.

It was when Satsuki was in 3rd grade. I went back after the 6th lesson, yet I saw Satsuki sitting on the ground next to the door. Her tiny body was obstructed by bushes. I couldn’t see her at all on the road to home. I still remember me freaking out over that.

“I forgot my keys.” Even though she looked pretty calm when she said that, she wasn’t even 10 years old. There’s no way she wasn’t scared. Perhaps she had been crying before I came back.

For a while after that, I immediately dashed home after passing over the spot where most students disbanded. Come to think of it, weren’t we kind of cute at that moment? I argued with Satsuki every day back then. It’s hard to believe I worried about her so much.

“Onii-chan, did you hang out with your friends in school today too?”

I wiped my hands dry with the towel as I thought about things while Satsuki suddenly asked me. She had already wiped her hands, but she remained before the washstand.

“You don’t have to say today too, right?”

“Didn’t you already do that during the trip? You went to have fun with friends again in less than 3 weeks. This is a great achievement for onii-chan.”

“Aren’t your standard for great achievements too low?”

“It’s onii-chan, after all.”

An onii-chan like this is really, …it’s pathetic, but I can’t retort.

“Well, but onii-chan seems to be celebrating life. Your little sister is throbbed.”

“Who do you think I am?”

Ahaha. Satsuki laughed as she headed outside. I quickly followed up.

“Back to what we were talking about, a brother will always worry about his little sister.”

“Hmm, but I think I’m quite reliable.”

“Right, but still. So, I’ll help Satsuki if you are ever in trouble.”

I tried to maintain my cool as I said that. Satsuki heard that and went, “Oh…”

“Eh? Did my onii-chan just try to hit on me?”

“That’s impossible! I didn’t mean that!”

“I’m very sorry, but I can’t answer your feelings. Ah, the reason I rejected you isn’t that we’re blood-related.”

“Is there any need to add that last sentence!?”

She thought I was hitting on her. I was rejected at lightspeed, and the reason isn’t that we’re blood-related! I’m probably on top of “List of Earth’s Most Pathetic Older Brothers” today.

Satsuki left after saying what she wanted. I stood there for a while. Peace soon returned to the once lively area. Silence has started radiating its existence.

I wasn’t thinking about Satsuki. Instead, it’s about Hoshigasaki and Kouya-san.

Older brothers are creatures that always worry about their little sisters.

He can even bow down to an unfamiliar high school boy who helped her little sister.

Last time, I bet Kouya-san helped Hoshigasaki a lot when she dropped out. So, even if she quitted from Higashidani High School, she must still be moving forward in the end.

It’s great that someone is next to Hoshigasaki. I’m relieved. Right, Hoshigasaki would have definitely been fine last time. Even if I didn’t help her at that time, someone would’ve reached their hands out eventually. So…

…So, things would’ve been fine even if I didn’t help Hoshigasaki in my previous life.

I immediately started hating myself after such a thought appeared. Goosebumps appeared all over my back, and my whole body began trembling. My ears were drumming as I gulped.

I sighed anxiously, shook my head, and walked out of the washstand. My hands are filled with goosebumps.

This feeling didn’t go away. I lost the mood to go to the living room, where Satsuki is. So, I climbed the stairs and returned to my room.

From now on, I’ll always live in the regret that I didn’t help Hoshigasaki in my last high school life.

Even though I forgot about Hoshigasaki quickly last time. In the end, endless waves of regret are sweeping me when I actually did get to help her. This is really depressing. Also, there won’t be any opportunity to remove this guilt anymore. It’s because the mistake was made in my previous life. It’s too late.

My encounter with Hanamitsuji is already irremovable.

And, as for Hoshigasaki, perhaps we already knew each other.

Even if all of this is twisted beings tied to my guilt.

*

It’s the next day. Perhaps Sunday is a window for the catering industry. There’s immediately an empty seat once afternoon is over.

I achieved the historic achievement of seeing people on Saturday and Sunday, at least that’s what Satsuki said. Right now, I’m sitting with three of my classmates.

Two of them are Hanamitsuji and Hoshigasaki.

“I didn’t expect Nanamura-kun to call me out on the weekend.”

As for the person with a cup of iced coffee in her hands next to me, she’s my class president, Mashiro Shiramine. She’s radiating with elegance when she’s putting her silky black hair behind her ears.

Oh, right. Yesterday, I told Hoshigasaki, “Shiramine knows our relationship.” She was very surprised at that time, but it was because she wasn’t paying attention.

Shiramine urged me with her eyes. I looked at Hanamitsuji, who sat diagonally to me.

“This is Hanamitsuji from Class F.”

“I’m Hanamitsuji. Hello.”

“You’re the protagonist of the rumor. Hello.”

Shiramine nodded at Hanamtsuji after her self-introduction. She then turned to Hoshigasaki.

“Hoshigasaki-san, this is the first time we’ve seen each other on the weekend.”

Hoshigasaki answered a bit nervously.

“Ugh, hmm, …well, Prez, you know what happened between Nanamura and me?”

“Ahh, I accidentally overheard your conversation in the library. I keep secrets well. Please relax.”

“Sorry for hiding it from you…”

“No need to apologize. Everyone has something that they don’t want to tell others. However, I can’t say I’m exactly fine with it.”

Shiramine’s words seem to have a deeper meaning. She took a sip of iced coffee and asked me in a slightly cold tone.

“Compared to that, I want to ask you a question first.”

“O-Ohh.”

“Did you come to high school to seduce girls?”

“Don’t say dangerous things like that!”

What did this girl just spurt out!?

Seducing girls, this is a term that’s literally the opposite of an eternal lone wolf like me. Please send these words to extroverts who have some dirty relationships with girls. I’m a perfectly healthy boy if you exclude the content on my phone and PC, alright?

However, Shiramine isn’t moved by my retort at all. She turned her disappointed eyes to Hanamitsuji and continued in a plain tone.

“But, I can clearly see that this isn’t the first time Hanamitsuji-san and you have met.”

“W-Well, you’re right.”

“Our high school isn’t your hunting ground, boy.”

“You’re just being really mean right now!”

For some reason, I feel like Shiramine is similar to me when she talks like that. …Even though she’ll definitely deny this.

“Whatever. Come to think of it, you and Hoshigasaki-san know each other as well. It’s not that different whether it’s one girl or two.”

“Do you have to stab me with every word…?”

To be fair, I knew three girls at once, including Shiramine. Hiya? Aren’t I just a legit normie now? I feel like I can’t fight back if real loners throw rocks at me. No, what even counts as a real loner?

Hanamtisuji seemed to be upset with what Shiramine said as well. She cleared her throat and retorted sternly.

“Exactly. Ignoring Hoshigasaki-san, how can a lone wolf like Nanamura-kun seduce me?”

“You’re right, but it really pisses me off when you say that in front of me!”

“That’s pretty mean to me too, Sora-chan!”

Hoshigasaki and I retorted Hanamitsuji at the same time. Shiramine shook the cup filled with ice. It made refreshing clicking sounds.

“Look, aren’t you two pretty in sync as well? Am I reading comic dialogs right now?”

“No! Don’t misunderstand, Mashiro!”

Shiramine’s eyes bulged as Hanamitsuji suddenly leaned forward hastily.

“Wait? D-Did you just call me by my first name?”

“Eh? …Ah.”

Shit. That’s what Hanamitsuji’s face is saying.

I think she was good friends with Shiramine in our last high school life. She must have just called her in that way subconsciously. After all, she uses “Mashiro” when speaking to me too.

“Uh, well, I knew your name from Nanamura-kun yesterday…”

Hanamitsuji stuttered. She turned to me to ask for my agreement. Her expression was clearly asking me, “Right?” I nodded, but this is probably not the issue.

Shiramine lost interest. She swept her hair and rolled her eyes. Indeed, this is not her point of attention.

“No, I’m fine with that. I’m just a bit surprised when someone called me by my first name when we just met each other.”

“Ah, …sorry for startling you!”

“Don’t mind it. I’m just thinking extroverts are indeed amazing.”

Gurk. Hanamitsuji sounded like something was stuck in her throat.

Even though Shiramine’s social skills are far superior to mine, she’s not an extrovert. I don’t think she’ll just call her friends’ first names right away. Instead, she’s probably the type to shorten the distance over time, right.



After that, Shiramine put down the glass in her hands.

“Even though there is a lot I want to say, please explain to me what happened on the trip first.”

She stopped caring about Hanamitsuji’s mistake and turned to me with a stern expression. I already gave her a brief explanation on Line yesterday. Right now, I can guess she wants to prove this is true by listening to me while everyone’s here.

“Ahh, right. …Well, where should I start?”

I glanced at Hanamitsuji before the explanation. She calmed down and nodded at me. This means that we’re going according to the plan. I drank some cola and put out the explanation I said to Hoshigasaki.

I knew Hanamitsuji from the start. She called me over after knowing that I had left the team during the trip. Then, some delinquents came up to Hanamitsuji before we met. As for me, I saved Hanamitsuji in the nick of time after seeing her. The rumor mentioned that Hanamitsuji and I stayed together. That probably stemmed from them seeing us escaping from the bad guys.

There were some skipped parts here and there, but most of them were true. Although letting someone else know that Hanamitsuji and I are acquaintances is risky, Shiramine has to know if we want someone else to help.

Shiramine listened. She sometimes answered with a “hmm”. At other times, she turned to Hanamitsuji and asked, “Is what he said true?” This girl is really good at hearing other people out.

“Indeed, I did stay with Hanamitsuji during the trip. This part of the rumor is true. However, we didn’t decide to meet up beforehand, nor are we dating.”

“I see.”

“However, the rumor won’t die down if only Hanamitsuji and I tried. It’s because our explanation is only half as convincing. Also, I don’t have anyone to talk to. So, I want to ask for Shiramine’s and Hoshigasaki’s help because you two weren’t directly involved in this incident. Sorry for causing trouble for you two, but this is the only solution I came up with.”

After that, I lowered my head and begged them.

So, Hanamitusji also followed me and lowered her head to Shiramine.

“Shiramine-san has a high reputation for being Class A’s president. It would be great if you could calm down the rumor for us. Perhaps this may waste your time, but we really need your help!”

“Please, Prez! Can you help them?”

Hoshigasaki also asked for us. Shiramine fell silent for a while. She wiped the water drops on her glass and spoke up.

“Can I ask a key question?”

“Ahh, I’ll answer anything.”

“Do I have to solve this?”

“Huh?”

What does that mean? I asked her for a reason while Shiramine continued half-heartedly.

“Why don’t you two just give up about the rumor and start going out for real? A lot of work can be saved this way.”

“Ehh!? No, wait, Ma, …Shiramine-san!? This is absolutely impossible!”

Hanamitsuji was startled by Shiramine’s words. She immediately protested. Of course, I had the same idea as her. It’s just that Shiramine continued calmly.

“I don’t think it’s impossible. A lot of what you just said was clearly vagued.”

“W-Well, …we did hide some parts, but that has no other meaning.”

She noticed we were hiding something. That’s why it’s hard to deal with a smart person. Hoshigasaki leaned forward to us confusedly.

“Is that really true!? Eh, are you two really in such a relationship…?”

“We don’t need jokes like this right now. Don’t talk, Hoshigasaki.”

“That’s mean! I’ll help too, okay!?”

Hoshigasaki dropped her jaw to show that she was very upset, but now’s not the time to worry about her. Forgive me.

Shiramine didn’t show a tinge of joy even after hearing our conversation. She took a sip of iced coffee like this had nothing to do with her.

“I don’t really care about what you two are hiding from me. However, if you two are already sharing secrets like this, why not just go out for real? The responsibility isn’t on me, anyway.”

I don’t know what to say. Shiramine hmphed.

I finally understood after seeing her expression. Don’t tell me this girl…

“Well, this is just a guess. …Shiramine, are you actually really mad at me?”

I asked her tremblingly. Shiramine answered with a bright smile.

“Isn’t that obvious? I worked my buff off to try to bring you into the class. Yet, you just disappeared without even a greeting and enjoyed the trip with Hanamitsuji-san. How about you think in my shoes and consider how I feel when you ask whether I’m angry?”

“I’m incredibly sorry about that!”

I limited my voice so that the staff won’t be mad as I bowed down and apologized to her.

She’s right. I can’t retort at all…

Initially, I didn’t want to get along with my classmates. However, Shiramine helped me out when I was about to leave a painful memory on the trip. I feel really bad for wasting her efforts.

However, Shiramine would’ve been awkward if I didn’t leave the team. Well, but that was just my personal guess. Even though she said it wouldn’t, I still forcefully left the group.

“You were already having fun with a cute girl during a happy trip. Why not just let a trivial rumor like this spread?”

“Y-You’re really holding a grudge. …Also, can you stop being so mean?”

Actually, my time with Hanamitsuji isn’t all fun either, okay? It’s just like half of the time.

Shiramine glared at me fiercely once again. She continued with a tone full of resentment.

“Perhaps you thought it was over once you left the group, right? Did you know how I feel after that?”

“Eh?”

The question was unexpected. I answered her idiotically. A tinge of sadness radiated from Shiramine’s pupils. I felt like a needle just stabbed into somewhere in my chest.

“Something like ‘Ahh, did I mess up?’ and ‘What did I do wrong?’ I kept thinking about that when you were gone. I was really guilty because I thought I did something bad to you.”

“No, that doesn’t make sense, right? You’re not wrong, Shiramine.”

“I was still worried even though I knew I was right. I couldn’t enjoy the trip in that state.”

“…I see.”

On that day, I only considered the fact that I messed up. Since I have little experience with life and I’m not observant, I made the wrong choice of secretly leaving the group.

However, I wasn’t the only person struggling.

Shiramine also thought she was wrong too. She was fed with regret.

“…Hey, Shiramine.”

“What?”

“I only hurt Shiramine with my foolish actions on that day. So, I’ve never thought Shiramine would be so upset. …I’m really sorry.”

Unlike last time, I didn’t let out too big of a voice. Instead, I bowed down and apologized to her as sincerely as possible.

I raised my head. Shiramine closed her eyes. A knocking noise was made. She put down the glass in her hands and sighed.

“Whatever. That’s all I wanted to say. Let’s just wipe the slate clean and start over.”

“Sorry, and thanks.”

Shiramine just forgave me like that. She’s a genuinely kind girl. It makes me wonder what kind of life experience could’ve forged a girl like her.

I sighed in relief, yet Hoshigasaki carried an awkward expression.

What’s wrong? She voiced her dissatisfaction when I was thinking about that.

“…Come to think of it, I was the only one who didn’t do anything with Nanamura during the trip.”

“No, didn’t we text each other on Line?”

“That’s not the only time we can do that, right!?”

“Ah, Shiramine. Just ignore Hoshigasaki. She’s a pain.”

“That’s pretty mean!”

“Yeah, let’s forget about Hoshigasaki-san.”

“Prez is pretty mean too.”

“I understand your wish of halting the rumors. However, I think it’ll just cause a bigger misunderstanding if we just spread what we discussed out.”

“Shiramine’s right. So, I hope Shiramine and us can work together and hide part of the fact that’s negative to us.”

Then, I explained the plan Hanamitsuji and I came up with yesterday. “Nanamura and Hanamitsuji don’t know each other. They just left their respective groups due to different reasons. After that, some delinquents came up to Hanamitsuji. Nanamura coincidentally showed up and saved her.”

“No one will have any ideas this way.”

“I see. We’re pushing everything onto coincidences.”

Shiramine nodded slightly and leaned to the straw. She raised her head after taking a sip of iced coffee.

“Did Nanamura-kun ask for my help because Hoshigasaki-san and I are the only two people you know in the class?”

“This is one of the reasons, but there are others. You have friends in Class F as well, right?”

“I do, …but how did you know?”

“It’s because you immediately came to ask me about the rumors a day after the trip.”

“Even though the rumors started spreading on Friday morning, only a small group of people knew at that time. Even so, Shiramine still got it in the first hand. That’s why I guessed you’ve probably heard it on Line or some other ways from friends during the trip or on Friday morning. “

Shiramine’s eyes squinted after hearing my explanation. She looked intrigued. I just guessed half of it, but I was probably right from her expression.

“I see. Aren’t you quite smart?”

“I’m just more aware because I don’t get to talk to people much.”

“I thought you weren’t satisfied with just Hoshigasaki and wanted to stalk me as well.”

“You know I’m not like that, right?”

I remembered when I claimed I shoved my light novel into Hoshigasaki’s schoolbag. Then, rumors got out that I was Hoshigasaki’s stalker for some reason. This defamation is too much for me. Even though a loner doesn’t really care about his reputation, I don’t want to receive a stressing down from teachers.

“The rumors will stop quickly if Shiramine can help with your friends in Class F. That’s why I asked you for help.”

I lowered my head and begged her. After that, I can hear gentle sighs.

“Sheesh, you’re always involved in weird stuff. …Well, but I can’t reject when all three of you are begging me.”

She had some complaints, but she made a promise.

Hanamitsuji sighed in relief next to me as well. She thanked her.

“I’m sorry. Shiramine, you’re really popular. Things will be a lot easier if you can help us.”

“I don’t mind you guys asking me for help, but I’m not a pro at dealing with messes. In the end, you should properly explain things.”

“I’ll remember it with my heart. It’s just that I don’t even have a chance to talk to other people.”

“I think you should live more normally.”

“Despite my looks, this is already the most normal way of living I know.”

“It’s already not normal when you left the group in secret during the trip.”

I couldn’t retort if she brought that up. Although I had my reasons, I knew a common high school student rarely does that.

“But, your biggest problem is probably…you keep changing your girls.”

“I told you that’s not true.”

Yeah, Shiramine just loves to hold grudges.

*

It’s the day after our meeting in the family restaurant.

I was more aware of my surroundings as I climbed up the slope in front of the gates. It’s because if things went south during the weekends. People from other classes would be shooting weird looks at me. Perhaps they would even talk to me.

Luckily, I didn’t feel anything unusual and went past the gate in peace. Nothing changed as I walked to the first-year students’ shoe shelves.

I have to receive everyone’s attention after getting into my classroom. However, perhaps it’s because the class is about to start. No one came near me. I’m kind of confused since this was easier than I’ve expected. I hung my schoolbag next to my desk as I looked at my phone dazedly. To be precise, I was pretending to be on my phone.

It looks like the mood had already changed when I wasn’t aware of it. However, I don’t know the exact details.

If they spread the word on Line, I’ll have no idea since I’m not even in the class group. I’m helpless.

The class assembly was over in an instant. Kuno from the Baseball Club came to me. He put his right hand on the desk and faced me with a charming smile. I can smell deodorant at the same.

“G’day, Nanamura.”

“Oh, ah, …what’s wrong?”

We’ve never spoken to each other. How can he be so casual? I can’t copy him.

I wanted to greet him properly as well, but I ended up just making “eh” and “oh”. Only a small character sounds like that. That’s why I decided to spend the next lesson reflecting, “How can I make my ‘eh’ and ‘oh’ sound more proper…?”

“Hiya, I actually want to talk about Nanamura seeing Hanamitsuji-san from Class F on the trip. You know Hanamitsuji-san, right?”

I already expected this when Kuno was heading my way, but I didn’t expect him to be this blunt. It was surprising. It’s just that this is a great opportunity to clarify the rumor.

I planned to throw out the explanation we came up with yesterday. I gulped and spoke up.

“Ah, that’s-“

“Hiya, it’s because Hanamitsuji-san is very popular. You two really created a hot topic this time. Everyone is guessing whether you two are going out, you know?”

The opportunity was so bad that he interrupted me the moment I tried to speak.

However, I can’t face Hoshigasaki and Shiramine afterward if I remain silent. I made up my mind and decided to say something again.

“Well, actually-“

“But I think it started yesterday night? Somebody said Nanamura and Hanamitsuji-san just bumped into each other. This started spreading on Line very fast.”

Alright, okay. I know it. I should just shut up in this situation. The determination I had just then collapsed in an instant.

Based on Kuno’s words, Hoshigasaki and Shiramine quickly carried out the plan on Line after we disbanded from the meeting. They are always helping me. In comparison, I’m sorry for being a useless piece of garbage. …My brain went into full humble mode.

“At that time, someone else said Nanamura saved Hanamitsuji-san from delinquents. Everyone wants to know whether that was true. In the end, I lost at rock, paper, scissors, so they asked me to ask you.”

“It’s just a punishment game in the end.”

This person was sent to do something that everyone else didn’t want. Do you guys don’t want to talk to me this much? Whatever. I self-destructed during the Hoshigasaki incident. It’s not like I don’t understand how they feel.

Kuno chuckled after I complained. “Sorry.” He apologized with a hand gesture. It’s fine. I’m not that upset, anyway. It’s all fine. How can I be a loner if I get upset over every little thing?

“So, did Nanamura really save Hanamitsuji-san?”

“A-Ahh, …it was just a coincidence.”

“Eh, really! You’re strong.”

“Nah, I was just caught up in the moment…”

“No need to be humble. You’re a tough guy! Sorry for asking a weird question! Uei.”

A weird “uei” came up at the end of his sentence. He smacked my shoulders with his palm before returning to his extrovert group.

…What’s with that touch/shoulder thump contact? Is this the so-called body contact between boys? Of course, I’ve never gotten used to it, yet I feel just a little bit happy for some reason. I hate to admit it. Doesn’t that look like we’re friends?

Hoshigasaki was in Kuno’s group as well. She seemed to be listening to Kuno’s exciting explanation. Don’t tell me she was the one who suggested that.

I considered this possibility. Then, I noticed a girl standing next to Hoshigasaki staring daggers at me. I think her name is Hiiragi.

Hiiragi is a very charming girl in the extrovert group. Her brown hair reaches her shoulders. She’s as beautiful as Hoshigasaki. However, her cold eyes and lazy appearance give off an unapproachable feeling. It’ll be a scene if she’s smoking behind the school building or on the roof.

However, she usually laughs when talking to friends. Also, she has never caused any conflicts in school. Perhaps my cold impression of her is because of how she stares at me and her decision to observe during the Hoshigasaki-Sakado incident.

After Sakado made such a mess, I’m always watched by the extrovert girls, including Hiiragi.

Hiiragi will inject herself between Hoshigasaki and me whenever I get too close. What a great shield.

Well, I can never rest if I don’t stop worrying about every little thing. She didn’t cause me any real harm, anyway. Let’s just leave her alone.

So, I looked away like I had nothing to do with her. Peace returned to my seat after Kuno left. I decided to read light novels.

*

Everything remained calm until the morning lessons were over. It’s now lunchtime.

I planned to finish my lunch quickly as usual, so I made my way to the library. However, someone called me just as I was about to step onto the stairs.

“Stop.”

The voice sounded familiar. I turned around with a bad feeling.

“…What?”

It’s Hiiragi. She glared at me while putting her hands on her waist.

“I got business with you.”

Come to think of it, she glared at me when I was talking to Kuno after the class assembly. She’s definitely up to no good.

“What? Are you going to punch me flying?”

“Ha? Can you not say things that I don’t understand?”

“You said it before, right? You’ll punch me flying if I dare to approach Hoshigasaki.”

Well, Hiiragi did say she’ll punch me flying right away if I get close to Hoshigasaki.

Hoshigasaki. Hiiragi’s eyes turned sharp once this name was brought up.

“Did you do something bad to Ruri?”

“I didn’t. I haven’t been doing anything bad recently.”

Well, actually, I didn’t want to get involved with her when Sakado was stirring up trouble. However, I purposefully made everyone misunderstand me at that time. So, I have no reason to blame others for talking shit about me.

In reality, I already met up with Hoshigasaki outside of school a few times, but Hiiragi probably doesn’t know about this.

“Hmph, good.”

Her sharp eyes didn’t get any softer, but Hirragi looked more relieved. With her look, I bet Hoshigasaki is close to her group. They must have gotten closer after Sakado’s rage and the trip. I’m a bit happy to know that.

Hiiragi hmphed and spoke up.

“I heard you saved Hanamitsuji from Class F during the trip, right?”

“Ah, yes.”

“Hmph, I bet you felt you could do something lewd if you saved her.”

“Aren’t you too biased toward guys?”

“This is just special treatment for you.”

“I would’ve been very happy if you said that to me in a different scenario.”

“What kind of imagination is that?”

Ha, Hiiragi chuckled mockingly. Sheesh, it’s tiring to speak to a rude person.

“So? What business do you have with me? You’re not here to praise me, right?”

Please end this quickly. Perhaps she noticed that’s how I feel right now. Hiiragi smacked her tongue and got a bit closer.

“Perhaps there’s really something good in you. But, don’t you dare do anything bad from now on.”

“You’re telling me I shall never get close to Hoshigasaki?”

“Yes.”

I see. In conclusion, she’s here to warn me.

She admits that I helped Hanamitsuji, but this doesn’t mean I get a pass to approach Hoshigasaki. Hiiragi is still not forgiving me.

That’s why she talked to me.

“Got it. I’m not going to do that. Chill. My road to love is already filled with obstacles after what happened with Hoshigasaki. Right now, my restrain power is as great as a monk, you know? I’m about to reach nirvana.”

“Alright, alright, anyway, you must not approach within 100 meters of Ruri.”

“I can’t even go into the classroom that way, right?”

That’s like saying I shouldn’t come to school. I can’t do that.

“Okay, that’s all I wanted to say.”

“Ah, oh.”

She went up to the stairs before I could answer. Her back showed no signs of turning around. It’s kind of refreshing.

The library is upstairs, but it’ll be awkward if I go up and bump into her right now. It can’t be helped. I went upstairs after a while.

“Sigh.”

I sighed. It’s not just because of what I’ve been through just then.

I made people feel like I’m disgusting to solve Hoshigasaki’s and Sakado’s conflict. Shiramine tried to help me resolve their resentment, yet I made Shiramine upset. Weird rumors got out when I tried to save Hanamitsuji from bad guys.

Then, there’s this one. Hiiragi warned me when I tried to solve the rumor between Hanamitsuji and me.

In the end, I just can’t solve everything brilliantly like a protagonist. Even if I want to solve a problem, it’s always interrupted by something.

A person like me probably can’t become a so-called protagonist.

With that, I climbed the stairs. My legs felt like they were several times heavier.


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