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There’s an intermission at the end of the chapter so don’t miss that~
Only Iroha, Ozu, Sumire, and I are annoying towards Mashiro
“Congratulations on the update with the new character and the new scenario!!! Does everyone have their drinks ready?!”
The sound of glasses clinking together could be heard.
It was Friday evening. There were four people, myself included, having a party in my apartment room. On the six-person desk that I had bought especially for guests was delivery pizza, homemade roast beef, special japanese sake, 20-year-old whisky, and oolong tea bottles. You could call this heaven on earth. Inside the refrigerator was even a cake made at a french patisserie that Sumire-sensei had gotten as a present from a friend.
This week’s theme was… a party for having survived another week. Kageishi Sumire let out a satisfied sigh as she took a sip from the first glass of whisky mixed with some cola.
“Puwaaaaa~~~ The first sip after having survived another deadline really is the best.”
“You really made me anxious, for crying out loud.”
I turned towards Sumire, who had just barely finished the illustrations I had asked her for after working on them all night. The bags that were under her eyes were evidence of her all-nighter.
By the way, I’m using polite language now. I know that I may have seemed cold-hearted earlier when I cornered her in the student guidance office, but she’s still older than me, so I try to keep my speech towards her polite when I can. Of course, I’m certainly not going to hold back if she gives me a reason not to.
“Sumire-chan-sensei, you reek of alcohol! How much did you even drink before this~?”
“Ehh, I don’t remember~! Iroha-chan, do you remember how many bottles you’ve drunk so far in your life?”
“Ahahaha! It would be bad if I could~! Unlike you, I’m still a minor, a mi-no-r~!”
“Heeey! I’m still in my twenties!!! Don’t treat me like an old lady!”
“I know, I know… Oh, your glass is empty. What would you like next?”
Iroha skillfully filled up the empty glass that Sumire held up. Like that, Iroha continued her perfect-Kouhai act.
“Mhm… this roast beef really is delicious. Aki was the one who made it, right?”
“Yeah, I read online how to cook it in a rice cooker. Though it was the first time I’d tried it, it was pretty easy.”
“You really are crazy when it comes to housework. This might be even better roast beef than what most stores sell, don’t you think?”
“You’re just unable to discern good from bad. You’re being pretty rude towards real chefs.”
While watching Iroha and Sumire, schoolgirl and 25-year old, talking about alcohol and whatnot, Ozu and I were eating some rice. Even though it was some cheap meat from a nearby supermarket, Ozu seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. He really knows how to flatter people.
“Nnn… It’s really delicious. The person who marries Aki will be quite fortunate… I leave my little sister in your care, okay?”
“Forget it. If I spent years with an annoying girl like her, my lifespan would shorten.”
“What a shame. If she got together with such a multi-talented guy like you, her big brother could relax.”
“Though I feel like I’ve said this before, I don’t wanna be told that by Ozu. If it were any other programmer, we wouldn’t have made it in time at all.”
“The illustrations really cut it close, after all. I had to directly extract the data from Sensei’s computer right after she finished colouring. She really pushes right up against the deadlines every single time.”
“Just what kind of program did you use to achieve that…?”
“I just thought that something like this would be useful, so I implemented it a while ago.”
“You make it sound so easy…”
I could only sigh, once more realizing that this guy here was a genius through and through. He can read and write binary as easily as a native Japanese speaker can read Japanese. Ever since he was born, he had been gifted in anything that involved calculations. For example, in grade school, he always received overwhelmingly high scores in math competitions.
“But my skills are only at this level.”
“You’re as humble as always. Even though the amount of people who could measure up to your skill are scarce in number.”
“Maybe. But not having any other experiences in life makes me nothing more than a ‘Sicko’.”
“It’s exactly because Aki looked out for me before that I can have fun with everyone else here and enjoy this delicious ginger ale. From my point of view, Aki is even more special.”
“I don’t like talking about the past.”
“Aki is just as shy as always,” Ozu let out a giggle as he took a sip from his glass.
I didn’t want to think about Ozu’s past, and I wasn’t planning on digging it up either. His circumstances were simply that he was a genius, unable to fit into the small vessel of society called school, and I reached out a helping hand. That’s all there was to it.
“That reminds me. What about Makigai-sensei?”
“He couldn’t participate this week. The deadline for his new novel is close, I heard,” I took out my smartphone and showed him the chat with the person called ‘Makigai Namako’.
Along with me, the director, the programmer Ozu, the illustrator Sumire, he was also an important, not-to-be-forgotten member of the “Fifth Floor Alliance.” Because of this foreign supporter, even a no-name group like us had received an amazing amount of popularity. Well, rather than foreign, he was still a genuine Japanese person, but it felt like he was a foreigner.
After winning the grand prize at a newcomer writer’s competition at UZA Publishing three years ago, his series became a great hit and had over three million sales. This had earned him the reputation of a super-popular up-and-coming light novel writer.
His writing style was filled with sarcasm and satire, and he always looked at things with a combination of rational thinking and societal insight. The books took a thrilling new approach to literary style and the value of the protagonist’s point of view. Not to mention that they became such a big hit that they received media mix offers, and anime and manga were rumored to be coming soon, but he continues to deny that—
He’s a literary master within today’s literary masters, and his identity is still unknown. Even I became a fan after reading his characters and writing style. Since I didn’t have anything to lose, I had sent him a message in the form of a fan letter via his editorial department, asking for a scenario and his contact information. To my surprise, he actually showed interest.
Even now, he’s still a valuable member of the “Fifth Floor Alliance.” Though I’ve never met him in person, his voice over the phone sounds like a friendly, open-hearted Onii-san.
“Weird. It’s rare for Makigai-sensei to not be able to participate because of his deadline.”
“Ahhh, you’re right about that. You can always hear him typing on his keyboard when he’s talking over voice chat.”
“Maybe he has some other things to take care of. Like his girlfriend visiting him.”
“He’s the type of person who’d join the voice call even with his girlfriend around… Well, I’m sure that he has a lot on his plate, since he’s a functioning member of society and all.”
“Whaat, did I just hear somebody mocking me~? I’ll cry, I’ll really cry~”
Of course, the person who reacted to those words was Sumire, still sipping on her glass. Rather than a “Functioning member of society,” she was very much a “Non-functioning member of society.”
“We’re talking about Makigai-sensei… And don’t come any closer! You reek of alcohol! It’s way too early in the day to get wasted like this!”
“Ahhh, Sensei has started to feel good. Akiteru-samaa, entertain me with your body~”
“Leave me alone, you lecherous teacher. I don’t care if you get discharged from your job… Hey, Iroha, what did you make her drink?!”
“It wasn’t me, I swear. She just suddenly took the bottle. I guess she’s had around ten sake cups.”
“Seriously…? Even a Russian wouldn’t be able to withstand that.”
“To chase it all down, she even drank some of this. Isn’t this pretty bad?”
Saying that, she brought out another bottle filled with a transparent fluid — Wait second, isn’t that—
“Isn’t that Shōchū?”
“Ahhhh, the whole world is turning~ Akiteru-sama looks like a little shota to me now~”
“Don’t just describe your hallucinations to me! And don’t drag me into this!”
“Ahhh, I can’t hold myself back from pushing you down any longer! It’s so exciting! Tsundere shotas are the best!” said Sumire, acting like a cat with a red face.
Question: Why am I not in the slightest bit happy that a beautiful teacher like her is coming at me with water dripping from her mouth?
Answer: It’s because the smell of alcohol is stronger than those of her pheromones.
There might be cases of men doing horrible things to drunk women, but stories of such instances only completely confused me. Who in their right mind would want to involve themselves with a woman like her in this situation? I might feel a little drawn in by her soft skin or her voluptuous breasts, but anything beyond that and I’m out. And not to mention, this woman—
“Mmmm, shotas are nice and all, but something’s lacking~ Ahh, over there! There’s another shota.”
Ozu suddenly raised his voice when Sumire pointed at him. That reaction to being called a shota was totally understandable for a boy with his tall stature.
“Yes! You look like a kind, prince-like shota! Come here, come here~”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me with that though…”
“Hey Ozu, you idiot! Don’t come over here! You’ll get tangled up—”
—in this mess!!! is what I wanted to say.
Sumire-sensei grabbed Ozu’s arm with one hand, grabbed my head with the other, and stuffed my head into his chest.
“Yeah, that’s it! The normally devilish Akiteru-sama shota is being spoiled by the prince-like Ozuma-kun shota!”
After pushing us together with raw strength, Sumire-sensei took out her phone and started taking photos.
“Ohhhh, Ozu X Aki!!! Sumire-chan-sensei, are you a genius?”
“Iroha-chan also gets it?! The value of this scene!! Ahhh I can’t get enough!! Get me some more alcohol!!!”
The two of them actually had the nerve to get excited over this.
—Yes, this is just how much of a pain a drunk Sumire is. She starts to see others as shotas, always pairs up me and Ozu, and fantasizes about who-knows-what. You could say that she loses all her reason and loses herself to her lustful desires.
“Sorry, Ozu. They’re being idiots like usual.”
After getting into a position to do so, I separated from Ozu.
“N-No. I’m totally okay.”
“You really are a saint, Ozu. You’re not even getting mad at them for this.”
“Well, Sensei doesn’t have any ill-will. Usually.” Ozu softly shook his hands and head.
His face looked a bit red to me, but that might’ve been just been the lighting.
“Ahhh! Why did you separate so soon!!! I wanted to watch some more shota BL!!!”
“Will you finally return from the world of hallucinations already?”
One quick hit on her neck and she collapsed like all the energy in her body had been cut. Shortly afterword, she lifted up her head, looking at her surroundings.
“What in the world… Was I doing?”
“You were sexually harassing your students.”
“Eh? No no no that’s impossible! I’m the type of person who knows when to draw the line.”
“Your brain really works very conveniently for you, doesn’t it?”
Realizing that we wouldn’t get anywhere like this, I cleared my throat to get everyone’s attention.
“Ahhh, everyone. I have something I want to talk about. And it’s something rather serious.”
When I finished my words, the noise in the room disappeared like a candle that had been blown out. Ozu, Sumire, and even Iroha all went quiet. It’s exactly because of this sort of thing that we can work together as the “Fifth Floor Alliance.” This is our way of doing things. After looking everyone in the eyes, I continued.
“It’s about our new neighbour, Tsukinomori Mashiro—”
I told everyone about what had happened over the past few days. About the deal with President Tsukinomori, about Mashiro and me becoming fake lovers, and how she showed no signs of actually wanting to act like a girlfriend. Most importantly, I told them all that she had moved into room 501.
Changing her school, moving in right next to me, trying to reset her life, and everything else that I speculated about. But it was clear to see that she still wasn’t having fun with her current school life. And so—
Leaving her alone was definitely not an option.
“I want to make Mashiro a comrade. It might just be unnecessary meddling, and she might not be happy about it at all, but even so, Oji-san entrusted Mashiro to me… Will you help me?”
Everyone kept quiet, lost in their thoughts.
The first person to break the silence was the girl known for not being able to read the atmosphere.
“He tries to live for money and efficiency, but Senpai still wants to meddle even though he doesn’t gain anything from it. It’s the best~!”
“Yeah, that’s just like Aki. It’s constant changes between showing kindness and being severe. It’s like he’s an A.I. in the truest sense, trying to act like a human being.”
“I have to agree. Mashiro-chan needs a place to belong to. And that’s probably what she wants for herself the most.”
Ozu and Sumire followed up after Iroha’s words.
“So what exactly do you plan on doing, Senpai?”
“I want to throw a welcome party.”
“Something kind of like our party today?”
“Yeah. Invite her to our bad drinking party, and dye her in our colours.”
“Hmmmm, but do you really think that she’ll agree just like that?”
“I have a plan. And in order to pull it off, I need everyone’s help.”
“A plan! That sounds fun! Okay, I’m totally in~!”
“Alright, this is what I thought of—”
I lowered my voice and started explaining my plan.
I knew that it was absurd and completely unreasonable, and that the chance of success was pretty slim. But for us, it certainly wasn’t impossible. Not a single one of them thought that it was undoable. Instead, they totally agreed with everything.
“Hehe~ That’s the best. It’s super duper interesting~”
“Though it feels like a lot is resting on my shoulders. Well, I’ll try to do my best.”
“The reward is also very tempting~”
“Then it’s decided. All right. We’ll start next Friday at 8pm. I expect punctual timing from everyone—”
And after everyone nodded in agreement—
“Let’s show her just how annoying we can be.”
Our echoes resonated throughout the room, deep in the night—
After that, our week of preparations began.
[6 Days prior (Saturday)]
Ding dong ding dong
Ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong— Rattle.
“S-Shut up… So loud… and on a Saturday morning…”
After we pressed the doorbell countless times, our goddess Amaterasu finally opened the Gate of the Celestial Rock cave, greeting us with a sleepy face and pyjamas. In response, we blatantly asked:
“Will you come to our drinking party on friday?”
(TLC: To keep it short, this is a reference to the starting days of Japanese mythology, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu hid from the other gods in a cave, closed off by a rock. Said other gods tried to lure her out with a party)
[5 Days prior (Sunday)]
“…Huh? No matter how often I try to ring the bell, it won’t work… Don’t tell me; did she cut the power to it?”
She actually had the nerve to learn from yesterday. Now that it had come to this, there was no chance of attacking her on a Sunday like this. Sadly, we had to withdraw for the day.
For just such an occasion, we had prepared around 30 posters for our party, and we stuffed them all into her mail slot.
[4 Days prior (Monday)]
‘I have something I want to talk about.’
During class, I wrote that on a small piece of paper ripped out of my notebook, rolled it into a ball, and threw it over to Mashiro’s desk. After reading it over, Mashiro gazed at me with a huffy expression, only to wordlessly focus her gaze once more on the blackboard. However, after I returned my focus to class, I realized that she was writing something on said piece of paper. She threw it back to me.
‘What was that about yesterday? Was it bullying? Harassment?’
‘As you can see, it was an invite for our drinking party’.
‘Treating another person’s mail bin as a trash cran, filling it up to the brim… Whatever, Mashiro hates you.’
‘Then tell me your LINE ID. It’ll be more convenient than doing this.’
She flat-out declined. It indeed was no easy task to get past the impregnable wall of the Ice Queen.
—Well, we still have a lot of time, so it’s fine.
[3 Days Prior (Tuesday)]
“Hey, how about you come to—”
“Don’t talk to Mashiro inside the classroom.”
[2 Days Prior (Wednesday)]
“Hey, how about you come to—”
“Don’t talk to Mashiro on the way to school. Are you a stalker or something?”
[1 Day Prior (Thursday)]
“Hey, how about you come to… wait, it’s already tomorrow—”
“We want to throw a welcoming party for you. We’ll order pizza and some other stuff, Sensei will drink alcohol and the others will have juice. Since we’re living in the same apartment complex on the same floor, we might as well make the most out of it, right?”
Ohhh! Has she finally opened up her shell?!
“Even if you ask Mashiro so seriously, this place is…”
I guess that the girls’ toilet is impossible after all. I really thought that I might get a positive response out of her if I caught her in a moment of relaxation and weakness. Sadly, a lot of people have gathered in the meantime. They’re all looking at the suspicious person stopping a girl on the way on the toilet. At this rate, it’ll only be a matter of time before I have to run away from teachers and police.
Overstaying my welcome is not recommended at this point. In complete silence, I turned around on my heels and walked away.
In the end—
No matter how much we tried to invite her by whatever means and techniques possible, she didn’t move an inch, blocking every attempt.
It was the evening before the day of the welcoming party. After classes, I went to a nearby supermarket. While I pushed the cart in front of me, different types of ingredients started piling up on their own. The person responsible for that was Iroha, who was walking around the store, bringing back whatever she wanted like a honeybee delivering honey.
Carrots, onions, potatoes, beef, various other side dishes, 500ml bottles of water, tea, and whatnot. As well as all that, various sweets were clearly being chosen according to her liking.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s party, Senpai~” Iroha turned towards me with a smile.
Though she was still wearing her school uniform, her headphones weren’t present around her neck and she had her hair hanging down in a natural look. Though it didn’t exactly hide the stylish feeling she gave off, she still looked way more like an honor student than she usually did.
…Honestly, it gives me the chills.
“Do you really have to go into honor-student-mode when we’re just going shopping?”
“When I use this mode, I can get discounts, or even get stuff for free. And Senpai likes it more this way, right?”
“You’re not wrong, but still…”
Though my pride wouldn’t normally allow me to use my comrades for profit, I certainly wouldn’t say anything against saving some money where I could, especially for the expensive welcoming party. However, there was a certain reason I wanted to avoid bringing the honor student Iroha here.
“Oh my oh my oh my, it’s the usual student couple!”
“Hello, Onee-san from the sample aisle.”
“Oh my, Iroha-chan. How nice of you to call this old lady an Onee-san! Aki-kun, you really have yourself a good girlfriend.”
“I keep telling you. We really don’t have that kind of relationship…”
“Now now, there’s no need to get flustered,” said the old lady, not trusting my words at all like usual as she patted me on the shoulder.
—Yeah, this is a total pain.
It might be obvious since we’re neighbours, but Iroha and I often meet up here when going shopping for dinner and whatnot. At first, we just happened to meet by pure coincidence, and just went shopping together on a whim, but after a while, it became a routine for us to go together like this. Because of that, we’ve become known as the ‘Couple that often goes shopping together’ by this old lady, whose stance on the subject still hadn’t change after all this time. And it’s not even that—
“Oh, you have some wieners from overseas today?”
“Yes, that’s right~ They’re the thick, tenacious ones from Germany. If you want, you can have a bite. It’s a service for Iroha-chan~”
“Ahhh… Nnn… Ah, it’s delicious. Such a rich flavour…” Iroha stuffed a small piece of weiner into her mouth.
Seeming to have thought of something, she turned around to look at me. The corners of her mouth lifted up, turning into a mischievous grin.
“Do you want some too, Senpai? …Here, open wide~”
“Stop it, idiot.”
“Muuu, you don’t have to act so embarrassed.”
When I pushed her arm away, Iroha’s expression morphed into that of a married woman, as if to say “Fufu, such a helpless person” with a bright smile. I wish for nothing more than to smack her when she’s this annoying, but this is exactly what’s so frustrating about it…
“That’s right! Calling her ‘Idiot’ is way too cruel, Aki-kun!! You’ve got such a wonderful girlfriend, so you have to be more kind to her!!!”
—See what I mean?
This is how it always goes if I react calmly in response to Iroha’s teasing. I really have no idea how in the world we could look like a couple, but the people around us seem to think differently. But, the fact that it’s apparently already a fact written in stone for them is exactly what makes it so annoying. When I firmly deny it, they just laugh at me, saying “You don’t have to be so embarrassed!” Now that it’s come to this, there’s no escape from it anymore. I wanted to avoid this scenario at all costs, so I tried to invite Ozu to go shopping with us, but…
“I’ll hold off on that. Nobody wants to be the third wheel, after all.”
He flat-out refused me with those words. It seems like he’s really under the wrong impression about the relationship between me and Iroha… what a hideous misunderstanding.
…And while I continued to think, the wiener was still floating right before my eyes. The smell of smoked food wafted through the air, and the hot steam floated up from it. Iroha continued to gaze straight into my eyes.
“Are you not going to eat it, Senpai?”
“…I won’t. Come on, let’s go.”
“………Is…… That so………” Iroha muttered.
When Iroha pulled back her arm holding the weiner, the old lady’s gaze grew about 30 times colder.
“I-I just have to eat it, okay.”
Unable to withstand the pressure, I signaled her to bring it to me as I stretched out my hand. Holding the wiener in her hand, Iroha just shook her head.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry for trying to force you.”
“I-I don’t mind.”
“…Really…? Then, how about you beg for it from the bottom of your heart?”
—This woman!!!! She has the nerve to respond like that?!
Not to mention that she said the last part in a low voice so that the old lady couldn’t hear. There’s no mistake that she’s laughing her head off on the inside, while keeping this sad expression on the outside. Doing as I was told would practically give me an ulcer, but I can’t just lecture her in front of all these people around us.
“M-Man, I really want to eat it now. I want to eat it, from the bottom of my heart.”
“Did you run the math on that yet?”
“According to my calculations, I want to eat the wiener with a feeling of 98% certainty, of which 84% is because I want to be fed by Iroha. Basically— I really want to eat it.”
When I presented the results of my mathematics, I answered in a cute way, in response to which Iroha’s face turned into a grin, and she was barely able to keep herself from laughing until she had turned her back towards me. But I could clearly see her shoulders shaking from her snickering. She even has the nerve to laugh at me. This damned woman… You’d better remember this.
“Y-You pass. To think that you would go this far. Pfftt…”
“Hey, old lady, how about you finally realize what really is happening here and help me out?”
“Come on in, come on in! Today’s special is wieners straight from Germany!!!”
“She’s returned to her job?!”
Even though she was actively participating in our conversation just now! Damn it, why does the world always work in Iroha’s favour?
Grumbling about the gods in the heavens above and their obvious favouritism, I swallowed the weiner.
“Is it delicious, Senpai?”
“…It’s crazy delish.”
“Aha~ I like this honest side of Senpai~”
When the old lady’s gaze was longer directed at us, Iroha returned to her usual lax and teasing attitude.
“Your annoying attitude doesn’t have anything to do with the tastiness of the wiener.”
I couldn’t keep up my rough attitude while being overwhelmed by the tastiness and juiciness of the weiner.
“Still, I’m surprised that you can go around telling people what you like about them and whatnot.”
“Ehhh, I won’t say it to just anyone, you know? And I do like Senpai after all~”
“You’re the complete opposite of her…”
“Um, by ‘her’ do you mean Mashiro-senpai?”
“Yeah. Looking at her face, she’s clearly saying things like ‘I hate you’ and ‘Die.’”
Though I clearly dislike being teased with fake confessions and whatnot, even more so, I hate being hated for no reason. If only there were a girl right between Iroha and Mashiro. That would be the best thing ever, but the world sadly doesn’t work that way.
“That reminds me. You still haven’t managed to convince her to come, have you?”
When Iroha asked me this in the midst of reaching for some tomato juice at the beverage section, I responded with a sigh.
For this operation, I had Ozu and Sumire help out quite a lot. Iroha too. I had her come with me for the shopping, help prepare side dishes, and several other things. The only part that wasn’t moving forward was me inviting Mashiro.
“She just keeps running away. What do I even do about this…”
“Uuuunnnn… Come… here…”
Still trying to reach the juice, Iroha was lost in thought.
“So close… Senpai, did you hold back against Mashiro-senpai?”
“It’s true that you tried your hardest to annoy her into coming, but if Senpai were just honest about it, you wouldn’t even be worrying like this… Almost got it.”
No matter how hard Iroha tried to surpass her limits, she couldn’t reach the juice. She glared at the shelf with a pout.
“I know that Senpai can be even more pushy and annoying. Like that time with me. Or when you wanted to invite Onii-chan, Sumire-chan-sensei and I to Honey Play.”
“I couldn’t help it. Since I thought it was the best outcome, I couldn’t stop myself.”
“And you wanted to satisfy everyone with that, huh? You’re right about that. Really, it’s like the eyes you use to look at other people are too good, and you only ever see what you want.”
“It just doesn’t sit well with me when people are forced into a place where they don’t belong. Even though they have the skills, or though they have something that they really want to do, either their circumstances or their surroundings won’t allow it — that’s not right in my eyes.”
“That’s exactly it. Holding out a helping hand to the people who are torn between dreams and reality. That is Senpai’s strength.”
Iroha suddenly jumped up and managed to grab the tomato juice.
“I did it! …Wah, aaaaahhh?!”
However, she lost her balance after her landing, and was about to fall forwards against the shelf. Realizing that, I hurriedly put my arms around her stomach and hugged her from behind.
“Be careful, idiot.”
“Ahahaha, you saved me,” Iroha said from between my arms, still tightly grasping the tomato juice. “And it’s exactly because of this strength that even Onii-chan follows you. If you don’t know whether Mashiro-senpai really wants you to go on the aggressive, then I can guarantee that it’s okay for you to trust your eyes.”
“Hmm, with full strength and brute force, huh? You’re right, I might have been a bit too passive about this.”
Though I would’ve preferred the rational way of doing things, it seems that my self-assessment was wrong. Apparently I was being too soft in response to Mashiro’s decision to live independently.
That’s right. Once I’ve decided on what I think is the right path, it’s very much like me to strive for it with everything. It’ll surely be to Mashiro’s benefit. This much is necessary for an ideal future.
When I started to think like that, I didn’t care anymore if I was annoying. I remembered back to when I had tried to convince everyone to start working under Honey Play. In response to the three of them who were clearly confused by my sudden idea, I convinced them that it would work out in their favour, and I got them to accept.
The one who has immense talent, but who is unable to hold a decent conversation with anyone below his level, the one who is only able to talk with me and family; Ozu.
The one who had loved drawing ever since she was a small child and had developed an immense talent with it, but who was still forced down the road of teaching by a family of teachers; Sumire.
In order to grant their dreams, whatever the obstacle might be, we will use President Tsukinomori’s Honey Play, and accept any conditions. Comparing the current situation to back then, this is almost laughable.
After I helped Iroha get back on balance, she handed me the tomato juice in her hand—
“—Thank you, Iroha. You’re absolutely right.”
“Aha~ I’m looking forward to Senpai being serious~”
Both me and the Kouhai who liked teasing others had ominous grins on our faces.
—You’d better prepare yourself, Mashiro.
Even if you hate it, I won’t leave you alone.
You’ll get friends in the most efficient way possible, and you’ll spend an enjoyable student life.
I’ll show you just how annoying I can be.
「It seems like things will be interesting from here on out. I’m looking forward to Aki’s plan.」
「I don’t know how far I can go, but you’d better watch me!」
Intermission: Mashiro’s feelings
Being wrapped up in a comfy blanket on top of a bed makes you want to spend an eternity there. It’s like being a seashell on the beach. Not opening up to the outside, just getting swallowed up by the incoming waves.
That’s what Mashiro thought, and what she still thinks even now.
—Of course, she knew very well that she couldn’t keep going on like this. Precisely because she knew this, she transferred.
Mashiro really felt happy when she was reunited with Aki once more. Well, their first meeting after all these years was the worst it could possibly be. Him seeing Mashiro’s plain underwear that she had never wanted him to see was such a shock that she wanted to die—
Even so, Mashiro was incredibly happy to be able to see him again and to exchange words with him. She should’ve been able to guess, but Aki hadn’t changed at all.
“This Friday, I really want Mashiro to come to our welcoming party—”
On the way to school. At school. In front of Mashiro’s house… Mashiro’s chest hurt from remembering Aki’s face every time he had invited her. She knew that he didn’t have any ill intentions with his meddling. She knew that even after such a long time without seeing him.
After all, what he had accomplished continued to protect Mashiro even from far away. That was why she always wanted to take that one step forward. Mashiro believed that when she could stand next to him, she might be able to change as well.
—But reality is cruel.
That female Kouhai, standing next to Aki… Who is that?
Mashiro doesn’t know her.
Mashiro knew about Kohinata Ozuma and Kageishi Sumire beforehand. When Aki was talking with father, she had overheard those names. But she didn’t hear anything about a cute girl like her. It was like he was trying to show off his girlfriend.
No, that’s nothing more than groundless envy.
Mashiro’s feelings were just getting the better of her due to the length of time she had spent apart from him. Iroha is just his friend’s little sister, so there’s no reason to falter.
Honestly, when Father brought up his fake boyfriend idea, Mashiro could’ve jumped for joy. She could have made a victory pose inside her heart. Though it was embarrassing, her happiness was ten times stronger than that. That’s exactly why her feeling of despair was even greater when Mashiro saw that girl suddenly standing next to Aki.
Even Mashiro herself thought that this was laughable.
Things weren’t going smoothly with her classmates, and she had started to hate the walk to school—
By pure coincidence, Mashiro had found out about the “Fifth Floor Alliance.”
“‘Are you a stalker?’… What’s up with that? Are you an idiot, Mashiro?”
Mashiro was selfish with her Father in order to get closer to Aki again. She managed to get into the same school using unfair methods, and she even got the room next to him — and she was the one calling him a stalker?
Mashiro herself is the greater stalker, really.
Mashiro hates herself for using abusive language towards Aki out of jealousy.
Mashiro hates herself for bluntly refusing the chance she received to become closer to him.
Mashiro hates the fact that there’s another girl who Aki is on close terms with.
Mashiro hates herself for going this far to change schools, yet not changing anything about herself.
She hates so much about herself.
“Friday… Tomorrow, huh…?”
Turning over on the bed, Mashiro stared at the wall next to her. Past that wall was room 502. Past that might be Aki’s bed that he’d be sleeping in, but there was no way for Mashiro to check.
Hiding her mouth with the blanket, Mashiro muttered the following words.
“She won’t go to that drinking party…”
If it was Mashiro and Aki, everything would work out.
But if it’s a place filled with other people, then Mashiro can’t. She would just get swept along in that place. Even the right to talk to Aki would be stolen away from her. If that happened, she would be surrounded by strangers. In an environment where fun is forced upon you, she would feel like a loner all over again.
…Mashiro doesn’t want that. Mashiro definitely won’t accept the invitation. Even if she were invited countless times by the one she loves most dearly, she definitely won’t accept it.