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The Girl Who Confessed is Only Cold in Reality
“Wohooo! Sometimes almost being late like this isn’t bad, right!? Yee-hah!”
“Don’t slap my ass like a horse, you idiot! Whose fault do you think this is!?”
“It’s because you overslept, right Senpai?”
“Shit, just this once, I can’t say anything!!”
Hitting the pedals of the girl’s bicycle at full force, I rode down my morning route to school at high speed. Overlapping with the metallic rattling of the bike chains is Iroha’s gleeful voice. Slapping my butt while I was desperately mustering up all the strength I had, she was acting like a western hero, riding into the sunset with her favorite horse.
Yup, traffic infringement, here we are.
This time around, we’d probably be reported to the general public police sooner or later. But as you might’ve guessed, Iroha and I were riding together on a bike, aiming for the school.
I mean, I can’t help it. I’d definitely be late if I went on foot. Of course, being questioned by the police would be a remarkable loss of time, so I calculated the path the police patrol would take, and we rattled down the shortest route that would hide us from them. Doing the mapping mentally in real time, I couldn’t let my thoughts slip for even a second.
——Though this heavy baggage behind my back didn’t exactly fit into my calculations…
When I glanced behind me, Iroha was still sitting sideways on the luggage carrier, fluttering her legs up and down without a care in the world.
“What kind of position is that? It’s dangerous, so properly hold onto me.”
“Ehhh, it’s fine~? I’m a genius after all! …But, if Senpai is so adamant on it, I wouldn’t mind hugging you reaaaaal tight~”
“Alrighto, there’s a curve incoming!”
“Eh, ah, hold u—Gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?! I’ll be thrown oooooooff?!”
Since she seemed fine, I leaned over with the bicycle through the curve without slowing down at all. After flailing for a bit, Iroha panicked and tightly clung to my waist. Once we got back into a normal position, I started relaxing my hips. We should be fine from here on out, even if we take a bit longer.
“What are you doing, going into a curve while speeding up!?”
“It’s because you had to get on your high horse and treat me as such! Once you experienced the fear of almost falling off of a horse, I was hoping you’d reflect on what you did.”
“Grrr…” Iroha muttered as she grit her teeth.
But, that didn’t last for long, as the corners of her mouth suddenly wrinkled up into an ominous grin—that’s the feeling I got from behind my back.
“Ha ha~ You say that, but are you sure that you didn’t just want me to cling to you like that?”
“What are you…?”
“Well, that makes sense~ Doing a ‘Heart-throbbing clingy bicycle ride’ with a cute girl like me, any adolescent boy would try to get the most out of it! Maaan, Iroha-chan did it again, granting another dream for a cherry boy like you~” Iroha said in her annoying voice, pushing her body onto me.
Comparing it to that no-bra dilemma before, the marshmallowy feeling was definitely lower, but the presence on my back couldn’t be ignored.
“Don’t get carried away, idiot.”
“Now now now~ Playing so strong! Your heart’s beating like crazy, isn’t it?”
“…Shut it. Just keep quiet and hold onto me.”
Presence of mind, presence of mind. Buddhistic teaching: Heart Sutra Buddhism, form is emptiness, all is void, emptiness is form.
Chanting Buddhist ritual chants inside my heart to seal off any evil emotions, I kept pedaling. She’s already clinging to my back. If my specialistic male attribute down there would execute operation Big Order, Iroha would find out immediately. And then, she’d definitely tease me. As if I’d let her do that.
“But Senpai, you’re quite the serious guy, aren’t you.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you overslept, you could’ve just come in late.”
“Being late for no good reason would drag down my reputation. If I had something else on high priority, that’d be a different thing, but I’d like to refrain from doing that.”
“Is that really it? Since you’re always so earnest and diligent, I don’t think anyone would blame you if you came in late once.”
“That’s one thing…but there’s another problem.”
“You know that Murasaki Shikibu-sensei is our homeroom teacher, right? I’m really not a big fan of being lectured on timeliness by that shitty teacher.”
The demonic teacher who is strict towards anyone and anything, and also the illustrator for the 5th Floor Alliance, her name is Kageishi Sumire. She who can’t keep a single deadline. Imagining the face of the free spirited OneeXShota lover who uses Murasaki Shikibu-sensei as her pen name, my face started tensing up.
“To make sure that I don’t lose the reigns in my hands, I can’t relax with stuff like this.”
“Ahaha… Producers really have it hard sometimes, I see~”
Even Iroha could only give a bitter laugh at that.
“But, is it really fine? Avoiding being late to school is one thing, but you’re riding with me after all.”
“It’s fine. I don’t give a damn what some random passersby might think about us. Well, being seen by president Tsukinomori would be a problem indeed, but… He shouldn’t be lurking around here this early.”
“No, that’s not really what I meant—”
At my words, Iroha started fretting a bit before she continued.
“Mashiro-senpai might get a weird misunderstanding from this, you know?”
The moment she spoke out that name, I unconsciously poured more strength in my hands that were gripping the handlebars.
“You…that’s what you were playing at?”
“Phewww, so popular, aren’t you~”
“Is that supposed to be a tease? There’s no problem with being popular, you know.”
“My my, it’s too early to start getting carried away, Senpai. Even if the long-awaited popular period comes for the long-time virgin, you might fail to make the best of it and end up being unpopular! Or something like that.”
“Where’d you even get that information from? Show me your sources.”
“I read it in a column of Capi Capi!”
“So a fashion magazine aimed at girls. Absolutely no credibility then.”
“Fufu. How about you practice with me so that you don’t ruin Mashiro-senpai’s ‘first’?” Iroha whispered words of sweet temptation as she moved in on my ears.
Not knowing the true meaning of those words, they’d spell instant-death for a normal virgin. But, in her case—
“I’m not falling for that, idiot.”
“Ehhhhhhhh? What’s with that reaction, so boring!! Get flustered a bit more, will you!?”
“If you want me to be flustered, then how about you rob my virginity in my sleep? Though you probably don’t have the guts for that.”
“Ah, now that you’ve said it. I’ll show you Iroha-chan’s succubus power, okay?”
“Yeah, come at me. I’ll knock that succubus design onto your stomach.”
“Your way of doing things is way too violent! I’m still a girl, you know?!”
Like this, our conversation took a quick plunge into the ridiculous side of things. This is the type of atmosphere that surrounds us. One second we can talk about something serious, and then the next, we end up bad mouthing each other. That’s why accepting everything head-on is a no-go. It’s perfect when she’s always only half-serious at most.
“—Alright, once we cut the corner here, it’ll be a straight path! Time to finish this!”
I once again put more strength in my legs. When the bicycle accelerated, I could feel a stronger grip on my waist once more.
“…Senpai really is stubborn. Well, if he’s like this, nothing will change, probably.”
Iroha’s muttering was drowned out by the sound of the passing wind.
Motivation is something akin to a financial instrument. The moment homework or assignments turn into ‘something I have to do’, it turns into a principle similar to paying back loans. Most of the people will say ‘I just have to do it later’ or ‘Next time’, using any reason at their disposal to push back their work, but that’s the wrong move to do. Because, just as a loan increases as more days pass, the more energy is expended to work on it. Even though it’d be over with if one started on it immediately, if one keeps delaying it, more and more tasks will add up on that.
Too much of a waste. Way too inefficient.
Of course, that’s also applicable to human relationships. Just piling up problems that were brought into life is an absolute no-go, and if there’s something you want to say, then it’s best to get that out of the way. Naturally, a good timing is crucial. You have to keep the TPO in mind. Additionally, the faster the better. This ‘Ah, I’ll just tell her later’ kinda development you’d see in anime and manga will only end up making things awkward, making one unable to even bring it up.
Idiot, just talk about it.
Also, if the person in question doesn’t want to listen, keep going. Don’t give up just because of the other person’s ‘No, it’s nothing’ reply.
With these values engraved in my mind, I won’t waste my time on this. Even if my fake girlfriend suddenly confessed to me like that, I will face her head-on with my resolve, and not in some roundabout way.
Barely making it into the classroom just before homeroom started, Mashiro was already sitting on her seat.
Maybe it’s because of the reality of having been confessed to?
Mashiro’s profile looked more amorous than before. When getting closer to her, a soft, sweet smell drifted towards my nose. She looked like a flower, ready to seduce me—the bee, into coming closer.
…Calm down. Don’t lose, me. Don’t give in to a beauty’s temptations and move on with the script in your head!
While taking a deep breath, I put down my bag on the desk, and when calling out to her, Mashiro was—
Looking at me with such a disgusted face that any shy book-reading boy’s heart would break immediately. That cost me my first mental life.
“A-About that LIME message you sent me…”
“Why do you think that you have the right to talk to Mashiro like this?”
And now her voice was so cold that even a Japanese teacher, 25 years in service, would’ve been unable to hold back their tears behind their glasses. That alone cut away five extra lives.
“…H-Hey, what’s wrong? You seem to be in a bad mood, but did I do something…?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong. Mashiro just feels sick listening to your voice, so stop talking to her.”
Her words were like a piercing needle, and even the most confident, wealthy, and successful people would break into tears while running away.
With that, ten mental lives of mine vanished instantly.
Unable to withstand the inflicted damage, I could only press my hand to my chest as I cowered before her.
What’s with this exhaustive cold treatment? And didn’t the level of harshness go up since her transfer? Also, you still have no plans of actually acting like a fake girlfriend, do you?
Just to make sure, I might as well check the class’s reactions on our exchange just now.
Woah, the two of them are already going at it this early in the morning.
But, Ooboshi was totally rejected just now, right? Maybe they really aren’t going out.
Idiot, that’s why you’re a virgin. That’s a textbook example of tacit understanding.
I see! Now that you say it, this drastic feeling, it rather feels like they’ve been going out for many years!
—Idiots, all of them.
Please teach me how this just now looks like anything comparable to telepathy.
Looking over at Mashiro, she was averting her face, emitting a malicious aura.
What happened to her?
Is this really the girl who confessed to me via LIME…? Maybe I really got the wrong idea, and that wasn’t actually a confession? …No.
That was undoubtedly a confession, and the account was definitely Mashiro’s. If she’d have confessed to me head-on, that would’ve been one thing, but how should I move forward like this?
It’s no use. This is way too far outside of my expectations; I have no idea how to react. Not to mention, the distance between our desks is farther than usual… At this rate, this will end up in a stalemate.
Now that we’re so far apart, it’s time to use the very weapon she attacked me with. Time to ask her via LIME.
[AKI]: Why are you ignoring me like that? I wanna talk about the confession
[Mashiro]: B-Because it’s embarrassing (⁄ ⁄>⁄ ▽ ⁄<⁄ ⁄) I love you so much, I might die when I look at your face!
When I sent the message, I got a response in mere seconds. With that sweet response, it really felt like an after-confession atmosphere. At the very least, it doesn’t seem like she hates me.
“…What are you looking at?”
Glancing over at her again to see her reaction, her glare sent a shiver down my spine, probably strong enough to make a world leader shriek in fear.
Hey, this doesn’t feel like that ‘I love you so much’ thing you just said, you know? You make me feel like I’m your arch-nemesis. And then, another LIME message came in.
[Mashiro]: Mashiro will only get more embarrassed if you stare at her like that… Mashiro can’t show her beauty with just a school uniform.
[Mashiro]: Not with these clothes Mashiro’s wearing.
[Mashiro]: To make Aki look at me, I bought grown-up, wonderful clothes.
[Mashiro]: Mashiro’s looking forward to the day when she can show them to you~
—Again, who the hell are you?
The difference between LIME and reality is too great in my opinion. Maybe someone hacked into her LIME account?
My phone vibrated again. Guessing as to what kind of bizarrely contrasting message I’ll get from her this time, I checked the name, only to find—
The moment I saw that name, my back straightened as if a wire had been strained.
—What kind of timing is this?
Tsukinomori Makoto. As the name laid bare, he is Tsukinomori Mashiro’s father, and my uncle, as well as the representative and company president of the very lucrative Honey Plays Works. His unreasonable condition in order to accept the members of the ‘5th Floor Alliance’ under his wings was for me to play the role as Mashiro’s boyfriend to make sure that she safely gets through her high school student life. For some unknown reason, he seems to have a rather strong hate towards all those people who just leisurely enjoy their youth, and he wants me to protect Mashiro from them. Of course, if I actually started going out with Mashiro for real, I wouldn’t be forgiven. That’s what he announced back then.
…Did he find out about Mashiro’s confession?
Well, that makes sense. Although she broke free from him and is now living alone, they’re still father and daughter. Mashiro might’ve already talked to him about it, even.
What in the world will he tell me…?
With fear creeping up my back, I opened the LIME message, and—
[Makoto]: Yesterday was wonderful. A toast for the two of us~
Together with that one message, I received a picture. A wonderful-looking high-class restaurant with a night view. A pair consisting of a man and a girl, their faces close to each other and with alcohol-filled glasses in their hands. On one side, it was the mustache-rocking dandy demon man—My uncle. And on the other side was… A woman who I didn’t recognize, or so I thought, but I felt a nostalgic feeling coming from her face.
She’s pushing her cheek onto Oji-san, with spellbound eyes that seemed to be melting. Although she indeed looked lovely, she certainly wasn’t the man’s wife.
Mashiro’s mother in my faint memories looked completely different, and this one looks way too young in the first place. Uhhmm…who was she again? I should’ve seen her together with Oji-san at some point…
Ah, I remember!! It’s her! The waitress from ‘Royal Guest’!!!
The woman that Oji-san had been flirting with everytime we went there. Like how her hands moving the trays and so on were so beautiful and whatnot… Oh right, he was talking about one more round of flirting like this, and that would mean getting in bed… Oji-san…did you really…did you really…?!
I knew that you had an itch for women, but to act this fast. Don’t get wrapped up in some sort of scandal, okay? At least, do that once we’ve safely found a shelter, please. And also, what am I supposed to do with this? What did you have in mind when you sent me this?
—Or so I pondered for a moment, until another message came in from him.
[Makoto]: Oops, wrong person.
Of all the things to send to the wrong person, that picture? Really, going around cheating probably left, right, and center, but being this careless about hiding it… This is why you’re always fighting with your wife.
Well, the contents of the message were terrible, but it looks like he still hasn’t caught up on my dilemma. I definitely have to clear this up before he gets wind of this. That being said, Mashiro didn’t give me any chance to properly talk with her, so what should I do about this?
But, even as I racked my head on it, I couldn’t come up with any ideas. Soon enough, the chime of the bell signaled the start of homeroom.
Rattle, the door sprung open with great momentum.
The noisy classroom went silent, almost frozen in a tense atmosphere. Indeed, being called ‘Poisonous Queen’, in her class, her reign began. In complete silence, only the sound of her high heels tapping on the floor could be heard. Cleanly tied-up hair, her eyes as sharp as a blade. Holding majesty worthy of a queen.
“Seems like you’ve kept some of that discipline from last time. I’m glad that you managed to learn something.”
The female teacher—Kageishi Sumire coldly stated as she looked around the classroom.
“What are you spacing out for? Class duty, start homeroom.”
The girl responsible as the class duty gave the command with a shaky voice, and the class moved forward. The classmates, without giving any complaints or whispers, only followed suit. It was quite the bizarre sight, as if one was watching a training at the army, but this was regular routine during the ‘Poisonous Queen’s class.
Of course, there existed many rebels against Sumire’s way of teaching. However, she would always cut through their complaints as if she wielded a blade of words. It was tough, but it was always a logical reason. And, ever since she became the homeroom teacher of this class, the class’s grades went up quite a bit higher than the other classes of this school. Keeping all that in mind, neither the students nor the other teachers could find anything to complain about.
—If only she’d be this serious at her other job as well.
Kageishi Sumire, also known as Murasaki Shikibu-sensei. An illustrator that has yet to meet a deadline, and a member of the [5th Floor Alliance]. Her queen-like character is nothing more than worthless roleplay, and her real personality is that of a good-for-nothing woman. If her students knew of that, they’d probably fall out of their chairs in shock.
While I was dwelling on these thoughts, the class was moving forward smoothly, and it was nearing its end, when…
“At last, I have some information to share. In July, the nationwide high school division theater festival is held. I was elected as the adviser for our school, and will partake in our theatre club. But of course, we’re aiming for a high ranking. A mediocre result is not enough. That’s why—”
Tapping the desk in front of her, she gathered the class’s attention before she continued.
“To solidify our success in winning the contest with our ‘Generation of Miracles1’, our theatre club, we’re recruiting new comrades for the cause. If there are people who see themselves worthy, come to my place.”
Those words brought the classroom to a state of disarray.
Eh…Kageishi-sensei was the advisor of the theatre club…?
What kind of activities does our school’s theatre club even have?
I’m not really sure, but if she’s the advisor, what kind of spartans are the members to even keep up with her?
Right, sounds like a pain…
“I don’t remember giving you permission to badmouth me.”
Being glared at by Sumire, the students immediately lowered their heads, shutting their mouths in an instant. Though I have to agree on the badmouthing part, I’d like to support my fellow classmates’ opinions here. After all, I’m just as surprised as they are. Sumire being the advisor of the theatre club sounds way too surreal.
“We don’t need any small fry that flinch at the high standards we hold. We only need those who have the confidence to keep up and prove themselves worthy of being in our group—That’s all.”
Leaving only those words behind, Sumire gallantly stepped out of the classroom. A few moments later, the tense atmosphere in the classroom dissipated.
“The advisor of the theatre club, huh…”
With her job as a teacher and illustrator, she shouldn’t actually have the time to be a club advisor. And also, since when has she been doing that? Well, with this competition or whatever coming up, it might be a good idea to rework the schedule a bit. At this rate, I can already see her kneeling down in front of me again because she didn’t manage to finish the illustrations in time.
With this newborn problem already giving me a headache, I turned over to glance at the first problem of the day—towards Mashiro.
“…Can you not look over here?”
With that freezing tone, I couldn’t find any words to rebuke her. It seems that with my current approach, I won’t be able to get a proper response out of her. I have to come up with a different strategy, and fast.
Yes, while I was desperately going through all the methods at my disposal,
“Aki, were you
okay this morning?”
A soothing voice called out to me from behind my back. Turning around, the same bright and handsome boy’s face adorned with gold-yellow hair that I knew very well greeted me. The overwhelming ikemen, with the definite possibility to build up a harem if he were to be transported to a different world. The only friend I, the one that lives with efficiency, have made for these past few years—
Or Ozu, as I call him, with a touch of familiarity.
“Yeah, I just overslept a bit.”
“You overslept? Well, a lot has happened recently, so maybe you’re just tired? I’d like you to stay healthy, so don’t overdo it.”
“Ozu, you’re as good of a guy as always.”
“No way. Wanting your friend to be in good spirits is something that should be obvious, right?”
“You say that, but you’re always the person to pull me out of the dark.”
With Ozu’s words healing my heart and relieving my stress, I can properly focus on Mashiro and Sumire again. Really, in our [5th Floor Alliance], Ozu is my beacon of light, enabling me to catch a breather from those annoying girls. And of course, it’s not just that.
“You too, Ozu, don’t overdo it. Without you, the [5th Floor Alliance] would crumble, no joke.”
He’s also acting as the foundation of our group, being the genius programmer OZ. Because of his overwhelming talent and skill, we can produce such interesting games. Rather than my corporal well-being, I’m much more worried about him, pulling all-nighters left and right to make progress wherever he can.
“I really think that Aki’s the foundation, you know, being the producer and all. But if the reason for your oversleeping was actually overwork, then sending my little sister over to see you might’ve been a bad call.”
“Ahhh… Well, I guess.”
“Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine. No need for you to apologize, just because you’re her older brother.”
The person in the wrong is clearly Iroha, who’s only annoying towards me. Really, Ozu is such a good guy, always showing consideration, so why’s she gotta be so noisy all the time?
“Well, she did come to see me, but she woke me up too late, and we were almost late to school.”
“Isn’t that because she was looking at your sleeping face?”
“That’d make it even more scary… Maybe she was thinking of ways to attack me?”
“Mmm… I really think that she just enjoyed looking at the sleeping face of the person she likes.”
“Nah, not happening. There’s no way that she’d have feelings for me. Someone like that doesn’t exist any—”
I stopped the words before they came out of my mouth.
Thinking about it, maybe my intuition really was off, and Mashiro really didn’t confess to me? To look at it carefully, I’m really not the type who would be loved by girls. I’m neither an ikemen like Ozu, nor do I hold any grandiose talent or skill that would make someone fall for me. Is there even a possibility that someone would ever develop feelings for me? Maybe it’s time for me to put up a new hypothesis.
No, but even so, that confession or whatever still doesn’t make any sense.
Remembering Mashiro, this weird feeling I got back then—
“Ah, right. I feel bad for bothering you when you’re this tired, but there’s one thing I’d like to ask.”
With a serious expression, Ozu changed the topic.
“Don’t you think that Makigai Namako-sensei’s been acting weird since last weekend?”
“…Again with that story.” Rubbing my eyes, I let out a heavy sigh.
Makigai Namako—a very popular light novel author, and the scenario writer for the [5th Floor Alliance]. We’ve never met him face to face, but the voice we heard during our voice calls sounded like a young, gleeful man. The stories he wrote had a lasting impact on me, and I somehow managed to get him to join the [5th Floor Alliance]. And said Makigai Namako-sensei, just as Ozu had said, had started acting weirdly ever since this weekend.
“That thing over LIME was really weird.”
“You should treasure couples…right.”
This definitely didn’t sound like something you’d hear from the UZA Publishing light novel contest winner, who even wrote ‘I wrote this to kill off this shitty reality we’re living in’ in his afterword back then.
“Well, I don’t think that there’s a need to go crazy over that now. He might’ve just been feeling stressed because of something, or maybe he changed his way of living and is now focusing on benevolence. But, the main problem is this.” I commented as I took out a bundle of A4 papers.
The other day, I rather abruptly received the manuscript for our new game update. I brought it with me to school so I could read it in between classes.
“This is the manuscript I got last weekend. Can you take a look at it and give me your impression?”
“Uhmmm… Let me see.”
The horror game filled with beautiful girls, developed by the [5th Floor Alliance], ‘The Screaming Night of Dark Koyama’. With the wonderfully drawn character designs from Murasaki Shikibu-sensei, the newest, yet mysterious horror game software developed by OZ, and the mysterious voice acting group bringing in grandiose acting for the various characters… and finally, with the overwhelming, fear-inflicting scenario of our trusted Makigai Namako-sensei, we created this game.
And now, the new manuscript from said Makigai Namako-sensei, its contents are…!
The Screaming Night of Dark Koyama – Chapter 7 ~That’s who I am~
My friends are dead! I’m so sad!
So much blood came out, I was so scared.
Maybe the killer is one of the comrades I trusted.
I’m so scared…
But, Yuuto told me!
“It’s fine, Kirika! I’ll definitely get you out of this mansion!”
What an ikemen!
I was so happy, my heart skipped a beat!
I don’t think that I had a face that would attract any boys.
And I’m not kind at all.
On the other hand, Yuuto-kun is so good-looking, and so cool.
He’s the person who saved me when I was too scared after everyone’s deaths.
If it’s with him, I wouldn’t mind dying.
I’m sure I’ll have a lot of rivals, since Yuuto-kun is so cool and amazing… but I won’t lose!
That’s why I’ll do my best!
The mansion is really dark now, but the sun is slowly coming up.
*This is where the voice actress adds a musical performance with a piano.
Even the small birds are telling us ‘good morning’ with their gleeful singing!
I’ll definitely escape this mansion, together with Yuuto-kun!
“This one’s really bad.”
Having finished reading through the manuscript, Ozu muttered with a strained expression. Needless to say, I had the exact same face, and even held my head in my arms.
“In here, the heroine’s supposed to fall into despair because of her friend’s death, but the protagonist will help her move forward… that’s the scene, right?”
“Yeah, that’s how it should be…”
This is taking the ‘move forward’ to the extreme. The heroine is literally emotionally unstable. And what’s with this ‘ikemen’ and ‘I’m not kind stuff’? That’s not how her character is. And also, having birds sing outside while people just died in front of her eyes is way too surreal. We can’t even prepare a piano for the voice actress as specified, and this isn’t a music game. It’s a horror game.
Of course, everything that I got after that was exactly the same. Everything that he’d written so far, the heavy, gloomy atmosphere inside the mansion, the suspecting feeling that something might jump for you at every corner, and this slow, creeping feeling of fear—
All of this turned into a sparkly, happy-go-lucky, ‘everything will end well’ mood. This horror game is turning into a love story.
To be honest, it’s horrendous.
“Maybe Makigai Namako-sensei is in a slump or something?”
“Might be. Whatever it is, this is way too different from his usual way of writing.”
Maybe something happened in his private life that’s taking up his time and energy.
But, no matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with any reason that his scenario suddenly almost turned into a romcom.
With that, the bell rang, signalling the start of first period, to which the teacher entered shortly after.
“For now, I’ll have to ask him to rewrite the scenario.”
“Yeah, please do.”
I cut the conversation with Ozu, and turned around to face forward, when…
I found Mashiro right there, staring at me.
“…What is it?”
“Nothing. Don’t talk to Mashiro.”
With a displeased expression, she gave me those sharp words and averted her face.
—It’s no use, I can’t understand her.
Mashiro’s confession and her cold treatment in reality, the irregularity with Makigai Namako, why is this suddenly coming one after another… Of course, her confession is an important matter to me, but I can’t afford to overlook Makigai Namako-sensei’s weird behaviour. After all, everything rests on the quality of his script for ‘The Screaming Night of Dark Koyama’. Of course, Ozu’s programming skills to satisfy the users in that regard is also crucial, but we can’t afford to have Makigai Namako turn into Tamago3 Namako and ruin the horror atmosphere with a happy-go-lucky scene.
I’d like you to imagine the reviews of the users if that actually happened.
“Those [5th Floor Alliance] guys, this Makigai-sensei really isn’t being of any use for them.”
“Don’t write such a scenario, just work on a new novel already, jeez.”
“I can’t believe it. I can’t call myself a fan of Makigai Namako-sensei’s.”
“Why!? This isn’t anything like Makigai-sensei’s writing!”
Yadda yadda, you get the gist. More of these comments would come in, stirring up a storm of negative reviews. That would deal a fatal blow to our popularity, our download rate would take a turn for the worse, and our deal with Honey Plays would be at risk. Although I have this pact with president Tsukinomori right now, that’s only valid for as long as our game is popular. Someone who’s made it to the top like him won’t be so soft as to let that slip.
For the future of the [5th Floor Alliance], I can’t put in a shitty scenario like this.
And during the rest of the class, I was wondering how I should get out of this situation…
「Though she’s been as annoying as always, Iroha really helped me out today…」
「…You think that nothing will happen with her?」
「Don’t say scary stuff like that. Being annoying is all she does… Right?」
「Please just take it easy on me!」
Intermission: Iroha and Mashiro
The classroom at school is my, Kohinata Iroha’s, stage. I am the star! The center of the normie groups! Of course, that’s not what I want to say. Instead, I’m referring to something like the stage of a theatre after the curtains go up, the place where I have to stay in character no matter what. A ‘stage’ in that sense. In this place, I’m an actress. I play the character of Kohinata Iroha, honor student, and I have to make the audience think that this is my true character. 24/7, no mistakes allowed. It’s comparable to an actor acting out their role at all times.
…That’s why, today is really bad! During class and during breaks, I’m really freaking close to letting out the grin that’s about to rise out of my mouth!
I remember back to the two of us riding on the bike this morning.
The very instance of Senpai being late is weird in and of itself, so chances like these seldom appear. If such a chance were to actually arise, I might find myself thinking ‘Maybe it’s fine to turn off the alarm clock?’ Naturally, I wouldn’t do that.
Senpai’s back is so big~, him pedalling with all his might, as if he was doing it all just for me, he’s so warm~, I’m so happy~, all of those things were flying around in my head back then. And even as I got off the bicycle, those feelings lingered. His sensation, his body temperature, this blissful feeling in my chest. I can still feel these feelings all throughout my body, and they won’t go away.
I’ve had my share of issues too, you know!? Even though I’m acting as an honor student, what would happen if they see my slack, grinning face!?
—Just kidding, it’s no use complaining now. Not to mention that there’s a far greater problem right now.
It was just a coincidence that I saw that message. Now, I can’t help but get this weird, gloomy feeling in my chest. Well, we’re talking about the impregnable Senpai here, so even if he got thrown a 160 km/h straight ball, he wouldn’t flinch. Still, to think that Mashiro-senpai would cause this much of an impact…
I assumed that if nobody made any moves, and Mashiro-senpai stayed as a friend, everyone could just happily enjoy their life. But it seems that I was too soft.
“Haaa…” I let out a sigh in the corner of the classroom.
What’s going to happen from now on? I don’t want Senpai to get taken away from me, but I want to remain friends with Mashiro-senpai. Hmmm… Can’t this shitty feeling go away already!?
This is what I was racking my head about during the break after 3rd period.
“Kohinata-san. There’s a guest for you. An upperclassman, it seems.”
“—Ah, okay. Thank you very much.”
Being called out by a classmate, I hurriedly switched back to my neat-and-tidy persona. There are some perceptive people out there after all, so I can’t let down my guard for a single second~! But, what business would an upperclassman have with me? I really only know Senpai and Onii-chan as upperclassmen, but they shouldn’t have any reason to come see me during school, I guess.
And just while I’m thinking that, a huge shock for Iroha-chan! Why is she here, out of all the people?!
“Mash—Tsukinomori-senpai. What might be your business?”
As I was about to call her Mashiro-senpai, I hurriedly retracted my way of addressing her. In my neat and clean mode, I always refer to upperclassmen with their family name, and a -senpai. This is the most polite way, after all.
Anyway, standing there was indeed Mashiro-senpai. Being stared at by the male students walking down the hallway, as well as the students inside the classroom, she was shaking like a scaredy cat.
“Ah, Iroha-chan. Good thing you’re here… Mashiro thought you were getting raped or something.”
“Cough… Tsukinomori-senpai? It’s only noon, so you might want to keep such expressions in moderation.”
“Eh? …Iroha-chan, your character is somehow different than usual…?”
“What might you be referring to? I’m always like this, right?”
While saying that, I tried to convey my message by winking at her.
Realize it already! Play along, will you!?
“Eh? Uhm… Uhm………… Ah!”
Mashiro-senpai seemed to be deep in thought, but after a few seconds, it seemed that she she realized something.
“Tehe★” (While making a pose)
What’s with that excessively self-conscious mode-like selfie pose!? No, this gap moe from the usual Mashiro-senpai is so friggen cute, but this isn’t the time for that!!!
Or so I cursed inside my head, putting all my anger and desire to retort into making a fist, and continued with my honor student smile. But, since I couldn’t say anything, an awkward silence presided over us…
Poff, Mashiro’s face went red in just a second.
“S-Sorry… Mashiro thought that this was what normal JK’s do on a daily basis. That’s why she thought you were waiting for her to do that… Uuu…so embarrassing.”
This girl’s too cute for her own good. To be honest, as soon as I looked at Mashiro’s face, I started to get frustrated about her cuteness. I could even hear my male classmates behind me whisper in response.
“That girl who’s talking with Kohinata-san is crazy cute.”
“Woaaah, a beauty and a beauty lined up next to each other!”
“Isn’t that the second year transfer student? She’s insanely beautiful.”
…and so on.
I’m glad to see that other people agree with me, I totally feel you guys. But she’s getting a bit too much attention right now, which is why I whispered to Mashiro-senpai.
“Let’s go somewhere with less people. Come on.”
After taking Mashiro-senpai with me to a corner in the hallway, we could relax. If it’s here, I should be able to shift out of my honor student mode for a bit, right?
“Uhmmm, so… Why did you come to my classroom, Mashiro-senpai?”
“Ah, your usual persona is back.”
“Well, not completely. Anyway, what is your business?”
“Ah, that’s right. L-Listen… Uhm, there’s something that Mashiro wants to ask…”
“I see I see. About make-up? Or how to properly use tampons?”
“N-Not that… Uhm… About Aki.”
Bad, very bad! There it is! Ahhhh, talking about Senpai here is bad! Really friggen bad! To be precise, it’s because I know about Mashiro-senpai’s confession! I can’t exactly cheer for her, and I wouldn’t feel good trying to get between them… No, I can’t let on that I know about the confession in the first place! This situation is already a pain right from the get-go, you know?!
Now, what’cha gonna ask me, Mashiro-senpai?!
“Today… Aki entered the classroom a bit later than usual. But it’s not like that happens on a regular basis, so Mashiro was wondering… Iroha-chan, do you know something?”
“Uhhmmm. He wasn’t late to class, right? Then there shouldn’t be any problem—”
“No. Aki always comes to the classroom at the exact same moment. Mashiro knows that very well.”
“Well, that’s just how Senpai is. But, he’s just a human, so there will be mistakes or irregularities.”
“16 minutes and 34 seconds.”
“He was 16 minutes and 34 seconds later than usual. This is more than just a simple miscalculation on his part.”
…Or so she says, but this calm-headed declaration paired with that strangely detailed information is a bit scary, you know?! Just how much attention are you paying towards Senpai on a daily basis?! Well, I can’t really say anything… But, shit! How nice it must be to be in the same classroom as him!! I want to sit next to Senpai during class!!!
While I was cursing my own existence, Mashiro-senpai looked at me with a worried, almost saddened expression,
“Hey, Aki isn’t overburdening himself or anything, right…?”
And said that.
“…Ahh. Mashiro-senpai, are you the one who’s earnestly worried about Senpai?”
“Yeah… Being almost late like that really isn’t like Aki… So Mashiro thought that maybe something happened…”
“But why would you ask me about that? Why not just ask him yourself?”
You’re seat neighbours after all!—is what I added in my head.
Thinking for a bit, Mashiro-senpai lowered her head, and said something that could come out of an anime character’s mouth. One who was in the midst of experiencing their first love.
“Talking to him, is embarrassing… This isn’t the timing…for intimacy like that… Though Mashiro can’t tell you the reason for that…”
No need for that!! I know already, I’m sorry!! That makes sense, you literally just confessed to him after all! And I can perfectly understand you, Mashiro-senpai! Not knowing what his response is, it’d be the same for me!! Ahh, if only I didn’t happen to see that LIME message, for crying out loud!
“That’s why, Mashiro thought of asking you, Iroha-chan… She doesn’t have any friends other than you…”
And now with that phrase. Crazy, with that timing… She hasn’t planned this conversation out or anything, has she? Even though she’s my rival, I can’t bring myself to hate her at all. Well, it’s not like I would want to in the first place.
Ahhh, I give up. I lose. I can’t act like I don’t know anything if she asks me like that.
“It seems like Senpai overslept today, he probably just overworked himself last night~”
I’m sure that he was probably racking his head because of Mashiro-senpai’s confession, but that I won’t say. I can’t. That’s why, I’ll just give her the important details.
“He’s not sick or anything?”
“Nah, I think we’re gucci on that one. Senpai’s a real health maniac, after all.”
“I see… What a relief.”
To my reply, she put one hand on her chest and sighed. Seeing that expression, I could tell that deep down, she’s really worried about Senpai.
“So he’s tired… Then I guess I’ll eat lunch alone today. If he’s with Mashiro, he probably wouldn’t be able to take it easy.”
“Aren’t you just thinking too deep on it? He’s always eating alone, so I’m sure that he’ll be happy if you invite him.”
“No, Aki is Mr. Considerate reincarnated. Mashiro will hold off on inviting him.”
Ahh, this consideration of hers, so strong. Way too strong. If she were this honest in front of him, he’d definitely say OK to her confession, huh… Grr…
And with that, the chime of the bell rang, returning the hallway to its usual level of noisiness.
“Ah, Mashiro has to go back to her own classroom now… Thank you, Iroha-chan.”
“No biggie. I just told you what I knew. Ciao!”
“Yeah… Ah, I know.”
As I was about to go on my way, Mashiro-senpai’s call brought me to a stop. As if she was afraid of something, she slowly brought out the following words.
“Can Mashiro…come again? She won’t…be a bother, right?”
I felt like an idiot for sighing like that.
Eh, eh, Mashiro’s really being a bother?!—was her reaction to my sigh.
“Of course you can! After all, we’re friends!”
“…! O-Okay. Thank you, Mashiro will come again!”
Flashing a bright smile, this time Mashiro-senpai really went down the stairs. Once her figure disappeared completely, I let out another heavy sigh.
“…I wonder if Senpai will really be okay…”
We’re talking about the blockhead Senpai, who’s never had even a millimetre of experience of love, but if it’s Mashiro-senpai, he might really fall for her. That’s just how charming she is, no joke.
“But…he will be, right…?”
It’s the Senpai who continues to brush off every advance that I make. The reason he doesn’t see me as a woman…must be because of that promise we made that day, right? Then… Then, no matter how cute, kind, or charming of a perfect girl Mashiro-senpai is, he will be fine…right?
In the end, this hazy, gloomy feeling in my chest never went away, even after lunch break finally came.
1 Possible ‘Kuroko no Basket’ reference
2 Makigai’s name is written with the kanji for shell, whilst tamago means egg.