My Girlfriend Cheated on Me With a Senior, so I’m Cheating on Her With His Girlfriend Volume 2 Chapter 3

THIS IS A FAN TRANSLATION, THOUGH THE WEBSITE NAME…HAS MTL IN IT…

Rumors are going around the university about us, though

TL: Furby

Time continued to advance and so came the first day of classes of the new year.

I arrived at the classroom a little earlier than usual.

In about half a month, we would be starting our final exams.

Because of that, I had gone to the library to borrow the books I needed for them, after which I had gone straight to the classroom, thus arriving somewhat earlier.

Nonetheless, seen in retrospect, that was a mistake. 

All of the students who entered the classroom after me were staring at me.

There were those who averted their gaze the moment I turned to look at them myself, and there were those that gave me a weird smile as they continued to look at me.

There were even some among them who would occasionally look at me before then starting to whisper between themselves.

This sort of stuff had never happened before. They were unpleasant gazes.

I decided to ignore all of those stares and opened one of the books I had only just borrowed.

It was an extremely basic section that explained the seven layers of the OSI Model, but nothing I read stayed in my head.

Amidst that uncomfortable situation, I felt someone’s presence right next to me.

Someone plopped into the seat beside me.

“You. You’re Isshiki Yuu, right?”

That person suddenly spoke out to me.

I lifted my eyes from the book and looked at them.

It was a man who, though we belonged to the same major and were both freshmen, had never spoken to me once before.

He had brown hair and a tanned face, and he wore two piercings on his ears. He belonged to a type of person seldom seen in the Department of Science and Engineering.

“Yes, I am. Do you have any business with me?”

That guy then spoke as he grinned at me.

“Tell me, ‘zit true that ya did it with the sophomore Sakurajima Touko on Christmas Eve?”

I wasn’t sure what I should answer here.

If I answered with a ‘yes’, the rumor would only spread and grow more.

Wouldn’t that cause problems for Touko-senpai?

Nevertheless, if I instead said ‘no’, all of the hardships we went through would come to nothing.

Whichever the case, I couldn’t answer this question carelessly.

Not to mention that I simply didn’t feel like answering this man, lecherous smile on his face, with whom I had barely even spoken at all.

“Who knows?”

I answered curtly.

“C’mon, don’t hide it from me. Ain’t it fine to tell me at least that much?”

“I don’t have any obligation to speak with you, right?”

The man then brought his tanned face close to mine.

“Y’see, this is Sakurajima Touko we’re talking about, one of the most famous beauties of the university. She’s even known as the ‘Secret Miss Jouto University’, man. Ain’t it only natural for me to get curious after hearing that a student of my same school year did it with someone that famous?”

I kept my silence.

Being asked something like this out of pure morbid curiosity was beyond disgusting.

“And that body of hers, it’s unbelievable, y’know. Such a slim body and yet those huge b*****s! She’s so aloof and acts all haughty, but that only excites men more instead. It makes me wanna ask her to let me do her once, too.”

I glared at that man.

Nothing was more revolting than listening to someone like this guy appraise Touko-senpai in that way.

Seeing me like that, that man put on a jesting mock on his face.

“Hey, come on. Don’t glare at me with such a scary face. I mean, your story’s already famous. How you guys dumped at the Christmas Party your group the two you had been dating with, and then you got over them then and there before leaving and going to a hotel. Many were surprised that, as opposed to how you look, the two of you would be so naughty.”

“Where’d you hear that story? Who told it to you?”

I wasn’t the one to ask that.

It had been a hoarse voice that came from behind me.

Turning around, I saw Ishida standing there.

Unlike his common demeanor, he had a stern look on his face.

Given how rough a face he had, simply making this kind of a face put on some serious pressure on others.

Ishida continued to speak.

“There’s more to it than that. The two of them had been cheated on by their respective lovers before that. Yuu and Touko-senpai had exposed that truth to everyone and then declared that they were cutting their relationships. There’s no reason for anyone to reproach them for it.”

The man appeared to have been intimidated by Ishida as he spoke.

“No, no need to get so angry, man. I simply happened to stumble upon that story as it was circulating on the social media, and I got a little curious and came to ask about it, that’s all!”

“Didn’t Yuu tell you he didn’t have any obligation to speak with you?”

The guy was completely cowered by now.

“I-it’s not as if I wanted to criticize Isshiki for it, man! Don’t get so mad! I’m sorry!”

With those words, the man got up from the chair and moved to another seat.

Ishida then sat beside me.

“Thanks. You really saved me, Ishida.”

I gave Ishida my sincere thanks.

“Don’t mention it. Besides, got angry just listening to that story, too.”

He then brought his head closer to me and whispered.

“That said, it IS true that you and Touko-senpai have gotten considerably famous because of what happened during the Christmas party, Yuu. Many people have already asked me about you, too.”

I heaved a sigh after hearing that.

“I wonder if Touko-senpai’s okay now that it’s become this big of a rumor.”

“I was worried about that, too. This is Touko-senpai we’re talking about, so I don’t think she’ll get discouraged so easily. Although she is also a woman, so she still worries me.”

“I’ll go see how Touko-senpai’s doing later.”

“Yeah, you should. There may be some weirdos getting close to her and giving her trouble, too. That said, I think it could be best that you spoke with Touko-senpai someplace without people around, Yuu. Otherwise, it’s very likely you’ll end up adding fuel to the fire and make the rumors worse.”

Once again, I found myself heaving a sigh. The truth was that the best solution would probably be to tell them that nothing happened between Touko-senpai and me, but we couldn’t possibly do that.

Just as Ishida had gotten his textbooks out, I suddenly remembered the thing that happened during the first shrine visit of the New Year.

I had been thinking that I wanted to ask this guy about that matter.

“Leaving that aside for a bit, Ishida, what was up with you during the first shrine visit of the year? It wasn’t like you to do something like that.”

The Ishida of always would never do something like going ahead on his own while abandoning others in that way. He was the type of person to be very considerate of those with him. I hadn’t been able to make sense of that even after I had returned to my home.

Ishida’s hand gave a start before it stopped moving. Next, he immediately gave me a forced smile.

“No, that was… I just happened to accidentally get separated from you two. It was an accident.”

I got suspicious when I saw this guy’s face right now.

The times when Ishida made this kind of a face were only when he was either lying or trying to hide something.

“Ishida, what are you hiding from me?”

I pressed even further the questioning, to which Ishida’s face twitched slightly.

“Say it. Did you have any sort of goal in doing so?”

Ishida let out a small sigh.

“Oh well, truth is there was this special banner in this gacha game during the New Year.”
{TL Note: A gacha game is one in which you spend in-game currency to receive items or characters from the game at random.}

“Huh?”

Just what in the world was Ishida talking about here?

“The banner this time was awesome, Yuu! It was one where you were guaranteed to get an SSR character! And not only that, but the probability to get one increased when you made 10-rolls or 20-rolls!”

“Hey! I was talking about the New Year here…”

“And you see, among them were several characters that I wanted. And I so happened to make one too many rolls, making the in-game charges accumulate more than I had imagined.”

Ishida continued to tell his story, not showing any intention to let me speak.

“As such, I asked Meika to lend me a bit of her New Year’s money. When I did, she gave me one condition: To make it so that she could have a talk alone with you, Yuu.”
{TL Note: It’s a custom in Japan for parents to gift money to children in the New Year. This is called otoshidama, お年玉.}

… Meika-chan did that?

I was assaulted by questions while I looked at Ishida, scratching his head and trying to laugh it off.

“Well, it is true that Meika-chan asked me if I would tutor her for some classes… But that isn’t something she couldn’t speak to me about even if you were around, Ishida.”

This time around, it was Ishida who stared at me fixedly. 

“Was that all…Meika spoke of…?”

“Yeah. The rest would be only that she said that since I’m also free, I should go play with her occasionally.”

“That’s a remarkable thickheadedness there. That’ll be another pain for her to deal with.”

Ishida was now murmuring to himself.

“What’s with you now? If you have something to say, just come out and say it.”

Being faced with Ishida acting so unlike himself, I got slightly pissed off.

“What I meant was that Meika had something she wanted to speak with you about, Yuu.”

Ishida tried to bring that conversation to an end there.

“I get that already. However, it isn’t correct for the elder brother to abandon his little sister and go somewhere on his own. What would you have done if I were some brute and did something to her? Meika-chan is very cute, so you should be more careful about doing stuff like that.”

“I’m not worried about that point in the least. I’m already well aware that if it’s you, Yuu, you’d never do anything weird or inappropriate. You’re a man who represents pesticide and additive-free safety and peace of mind, a man who brings no harm to neither humans nor animals.”

As soon as Ishida finished saying that, the bell indicating the start of the lesson rang.

 

Even after that incident, some idiots came to me during lunch break to ask me about that night of D-day.

Aside from them, there were also many others who were looking at me with curiosity in their eyes.

By the time the last lesson of the day came, I was already mentally exhausted.

… I wonder if Touko-senpai is okay…

I could tell the anxiety within me was growing.

Could she, a woman so proud and with such a strong sense of virtuousness, possibly withstand being watched with these kinds of eyes by those around her?

Alright, I’ll go to Touko-senpai’s classroom as soon as this lesson finishes.

It was also the perfect opportunity since Ishida wasn’t in this class with me.

I took out my smartphone and investigated the class schedule for the sophomores of the Computer Science major in the Department of Science and Engineering. 

At this time, Touko-senpai was supposedly in a classroom on the second floor of the school building No. 3.

The school building I was at was No. 4. It was a considerable distance apart from it.

I was afraid that she could end up leaving the school building before I arrived if I didn’t hurry up considerably.

There was also that… I wanted to meet with Touko-senpai no matter what.

We hadn’t met with each other even once in person since D-day. I didn’t care if it was only for a bit, I just wanted to talk with her.

I had the hunch that if I let things continue like this and spring vacations arrived, the distance between Touko-senpai and me would have grown to a hopeless degree.

“OK, then. I’ll be handing out the copies with the summary of all the main points of the material which will be covered in the next exams. Please take one and pass the rest to those behind you.”

After the bell indicating the end of the lecture rang, the teacher said that as he began to pass out the copies to the front row.

Nnngh! This teacher always finishes his lesson five minutes before the bell! And yet, today of all days he chose to extend it!

Although, I wonder if it was some sort of parental love that made him, as a teacher, think that he wanted to help his students get better grades, if only slightly.

Those guys seated at the front who had already taken their copy were the first to leave the classroom.

Dammit! I was wrong to sit at the back of the classroom so that I could leave immediately!

When at last the copies were passed to me, I quickly took out one and passed the rest behind me before flying out of the classroom at lightning speed. 

Nonetheless, the hallways were already overwhelmingly full of students who, like us, were leaving their own classrooms now that their lessons had finished.

… Oh God! Please let me make it in time!…

I hurried forward, weaving my way through the hallways overflowing with students.

This kind of remembered me of the basketball training we had back during my high school days.

At long last, I arrived at the school building No. 3’s second floor.

When I did, I caught sight of Touko-senpai’s silhouette on the other side of the hallway.

… Alright! I made it!…

I guess Touko-senpai must have been about to go back home herself. She was heading for the stairs on the opposite side from those I had come from.

I started to push my way forward anew with haste.

However, when I had come about five meters from her, I stopped moving my legs.

This was because Touko-senpai was together with two other girls.

I could see her speaking with them as she laughed happily.

As was to be expected, I didn’t have the courage to suddenly interrupt three girls when they were having a conversation.

As you already know, thanks to the events of the Christmas party, both Touko-senpai and I had become the center of attention for everyone around us.

It would be one thing if she had been by herself, but I didn’t have enough of a thick nerve to interrupt her if she was in the middle of talking with other girls like right now. Even when seen as an outsider, it was clear that I would be out of place in there.

All the zeal I had had until then evaporated into thin air as I followed Touko-senpai with my eyes as she went down the stairs.

 

In this January, when nightfall came earlier, I was lost in thought while I looked out the window of the railcar.

… In the end, I haven’t been able to speak with Touko-senpai in the least ever since D-day…

I unintentionally let out a sigh. I tried going to Touko-senpai’s classroom some two other times after that, but every single time, she had been speaking with her friends, making it impossible for me to speak with her.

After the Christmas party, back when Touko-senpai was about to leave the hotel room, I told her that I wanted to meet her after that time, too.

And Touko-senpai had given me her approval with a smile.

Nonetheless, ever since that moment, I hadn’t spoken with Touko-senpai even once.

During the end-of-year and New Year’s celebrations, she had gone on a trip with her family.

She had told me that because both of her parents are usually busy with their jobs, that trip during the end of the year was a very important time when they could be alone as a family.

After being told that, of course, it would be difficult for me to send her any messages inviting her to go somewhere.

The last messages we had exchanged had been telling each other ‘Happy New Year’ and some quick pleasantries on how we had been doing.

I took out my phone from my pocket and opened the social media app we used.

I entered the exclusive chatroom only Touko-senpai and I could see. We had created this chatroom for the sake of our plan of having our revenge against Kamokura and Karen.

It was something that had just happened a few days ago, but it already felt so nostalgic.

Looking back on it now, I could tell that those days of us planning our revenge were both the most fulfilling for me and a very important time that I spent with Touko-senpai.

Along with those memories of my time spent with Touko-senpai came some heartrending emotions which rippled across my chest.

However… Ever since then, I hadn’t been able to even speak with Touko-senpai, forget about meeting her.

… Touko-senpai… Does she not want to meet with me anymore?…

… We already accomplished our trauma-level revenge, after all. It’s not as if we had made any promise or anything to hang out together after that…

… Makes sense, though. Unlike how she is the one I have looked up to since my high school days, for Touko-senpai, I am nothing more than one of the many kouhai she has…

Perhaps it was because of the light of the sun setting that I was having those pessimistic thoughts welling inside of me.

But I couldn’t allow that, so I shook my head sideways and refuted them.

… No. Touko-senpai and I should no longer be in a simple senpai-kouhai relationship.

Just like how I considered Touko-senpai to be an irreplaceable existence for me, she, too, had to consider me a special existence in her mind.

For you see, we were fellow comrades who had experienced and shared the sadness and pain of having been betrayed by our lovers and then overcame them together.

When I casually turned my gaze back at my phone, I saw it had gone into sleep mode after not having been used for a while.

I returned my phone to my pocket.

 

That week’s Friday, too, I dashed to the classroom where Touko-senpai was having her lecture as soon as my last lesson for the day finished.

Today’s teacher had only mentioned the test’s main points before ending the lecture early.

Though that had been a godsend for me at the moment, I also had my doubts if it was okay for a class to end like that.

By the time I arrived at Touko-senpai’s classroom, the lecture had already ended.

The door of the classroom slid open, and several students came out from inside.

I peeked inside the classroom from that door. Over half of the students appeared to have left the room.

Still feeling nervous, I ran my eyes around the classroom a few times, before at last…

Found her! Touko-senpai was in there! She was seated close to the very center of the classroom.

However, Touko-senpai wasn’t alone. She was caught in between two men.

Who were those guys…? For a second, I felt like my breath got stuck in my throat. But once I looked closer, I noticed that it seemed like Touko-senpai was trying to ignore them.

Nevertheless, neither of the two men seemed to possess a sufficiently developed sensibility to care about that.

“We’ve still got some time, don’t we, Touko-chan? This is such a rare opportunity, so come get some drinks with us.”

“Yeah, he’s right. I mean, all three of us are students from the same university, right? Think of it as deepening our friendship, you know!”

One of the men had long, brown hair and wore a beard. Meanwhile, the other man had dyed his hair blond and wore it in a faux hawk style. 

Both of them were textbook images of frivolous men.

Rather, weren’t those two part of that famous playboy group of the university?
{TL Note: The term here is ‘yarisa-‘, ヤリサー, which is used to denote a club or group at a university whose main goal is to hit on members of the other s*x and have s****l relations if possible.}

They were a bunch of guys who always hung around in the cafeteria and were frowned upon by many people most of the time.

Without meeting eyes with any of the two, Touko-senpai put her textbooks away inside her bag and got up from her seat.

However, because the two men were standing to both sides of her, she could not get out into the aisle.

“Please move aside.

Touko-senpai spoke in a cold voice.

“There’s no need to be so harsh with us, wouldn’t you say? We know a nice place we could go to.”

“This is our long-awaited university life! Best to take advantage and enjoy ourselves now, right? This is the only time we’ll have to enjoy our lives to the fullest!”

The students in the vicinity all had their eyes staring at them. Even so, not a single one of them made any move to try and help. I suppose they were worried that it would spell trouble for them if they got involved in it.

As for me… I was about to jump into the middle of them but stopped in my tracks.

Seeing how we had the thing that happened at the Christmas party, wouldn’t my appearing here before Touko-senpai end up backfiring and worsening her reputation?

“I have to study for my exams. Thus, I don’t have time to spend with you guys.”

Touko-senpai didn’t bother trying to hide her anger as she said that.

Nonetheless, the pair of playboys didn’t flinch in the least.

“Come on! Don’t say that. Isn’t it fine to come drink with us for a bit?”

“They say it’s better for you to expand your personal network when you’re a student. Also, you’re available right now, right, Touko-chan?”

—I can’t stand these idiots anymore—

That may have been what passed through Touko-senpai’s mind as she tried to force her way past the brown-haired man.

However, the brown-haired man blocked her way. It seemed he didn’t intend to let her escape.

“Hey now, come on, girl. We still haven’t finished talking. It isn’t right of you to run away in the middle of our talk.”

The brown-haired man who had obstructed her advance said that, and in that opening, the blond-haired man behind Touko-senpai grabbed her bag.

“Your shoulders are going to get stiff from carrying this heavy of a bag. I’ll carry it for you.”

“Move from there already! And don’t you touch my stuff!”

This was no longer the place to worry about what others would think!

I dashed into the classroom and headed to where Touko-senpai was in one bound. I forced my way into the space between the three of them.

I started by first snatching Touko-senpai’s bag from the blond-haired man, followed by knocking away the brown-haired man. 

Having lost his balance, the brown-haired man staggered in the direction of the aisle.

“Touko-senpai, over here!”

Afterward, I brought her behind me as we escaped into the aisle and turned to glare at the brown-haired and blond-haired men before me.

For a moment, the two womanizers looked to have been taken aback by my sudden appearance, but soon after, they both laid bare their ire.

“What’s with this guy?”

“What’d you think you’re doing all of a sudden?!”

I glared back at both of them with anger.

“Don’t you fricking ask me that! Can’t you see that Touko-senpai is against it? And yet you were still being so forceful?!”

Notwithstanding how correct my view was, it didn’t seem to be getting through to the two philanderers.

“How could you possibly know whether she’s against it or not?!”

“I’ll bet that girl too wishes that someone would ask her out! If she were so against it, wouldn’t she have already left long ago? You don’t have any right to say we were being forceful.”

“Don’t f**k with me!”

I bellowed in anger.

“If that just now wasn’t being forceful, then what would you call it?! Didn’t you two bastards have her trapped between the two of you so that she couldn’t escape?! And not only that, but you even went so far as to steal her bag and try to use it as leverage against her!”

The brown-haired man then showed us a lecherous smile.

“You’ve got it all wrong there. If she was really against it, she could’ve simply escaped by shoving us aside or something. The fact that she didn’t do that means that that girl’s true intentions are that she wants to play with us. That refusal she showed to us may’ve been nothing more than a simple act, you know?”

“As if that kind of crap was true! Touko-senpai would never do anything like that!”

“Oh, but it is. Or could it be you haven’t heard them? The rumors about that girl. Just so you know, they say that girl dumped her boyfriend at the Christmas party and went into a hotel with a male kouhai of hers to have s*x. A woman like her…”

Just when I was about to punch the brown-haired guy in the face out of anger, the blond-haired man, who has behind him, pointed at me.

“Hey, this guy… Isn’t he the kouhai from the rumors~? The one who dumped his girlfriend at the Christmas party and went to the hotel with Touko-chan.”

Having heard that, the brown-haired guy glance me over anew.

“I see. You’re that very guy, huh? If I’m not mistaken, he was a freshman at the Department of Science and Engineering. I think his name was ‘Isshiki Yuu’.”

I was at a loss for words for an instant. Nonetheless, I couldn’t allow myself to fall back at this point.

“And what if that was true?”

The brown-haired guy made an even more lascivious smile.

“Whaat? So that’s why you butted in? You, are you Touko-chan’s new boyfriend?”

I couldn’t reply to him immediately. It wasn’t my place to say that I was Touko-senpai’s boyfriend.

“If you aren’t her boyfriend, get lost. You don’t have any right to complain about what we’re doing.”

Perhaps because he had perceived my hesitation, the blond-haired man gave me a smile that said he had seen right through me as he spoke.

“Stop fucking around! I’m not letting YOU guys touch Touko-senpai anymore than you’ve already done!”

It was at that moment that a sharp woman’s voice resounded in the classroom.

“You guys! What do you think you’re doing?!”

Turning to look in the direction of the voice, I saw three girls walking toward us while glaring at us.

Two of those girls were the same ones that had been together with Touko-senpai just a few days ago.

They then positioned themselves to surround Touko-senpai, and the girl with the short-cut hairstyle who was at the front of them all spoke.

“I left before because I had been called to the Registrar’s office. And what were you three men trying to do to Touko-senpai in the meantime?!”

“Eh? I wa…”

“If you were thinking of doing something to her forcefully, just know I won’t let you guys off so easily!”

The girl with the short-cut hair didn’t allow me to say any more than that.

She may have been of short stature, but she had an unfathomably overpowering presence.

It would seem that I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. From what I could see, both of the playboys were being overwhelmed by her.

“Not at all! We weren’t thinking of doing anything to her!”

“We were only inviting her to come drink with us for a bit, you know? Don’t get so angry about that.”

As soon as they said that, they both made haste to get away from that place.

The short-cut hair girl then glared at me.

“Are you telling me you still want to do something to Touko?”

“Wait! That’s not it, Kumi. Isshiki-kun only got involved to save me.”

Touko-senpai intruded on the conversation in a hurry.

The short-cut hair girl named Kumi had an expression of surprise for an instant, but she immediately returned it to a stern one.

“I see, so you’re Isshiki Yuu…”

Though she murmured my name, there was no change to the grim expression on her face.

When I turned to look at them, I noticed the other two girls were looking at me with harsh expressions, too.

Suddenly, Kumi-san turned around at once, facing her back to me, before encouraging Touko-senpai and the other two girls to leave.

The three of them surrounded Touko-senpai as they began walking, just as if protecting her.

Once they were at a slight distance from me, only Kumi-san alone stopped walking for a moment and shot a glance at me from over her shoulder.

“Isshiki-kun, was it? I already heard from Touko that you’re not at fault for any of this. But still, have you thought about how much of a problem has Touko been in thanks to you?”

I could feel my whole body stiffen when I heard those words.

… So Touko-senpai really was…

“Kumi, I’m not so troubled about it… Not to mention that Isshiki-kun is not responsible for any of this in any way.”

Even though Touko-senpai said that as she turned around, neither Kumi-san nor any of the other two girls lent an ear to her.

“If you care for Touko, then do her a favor and don’t come near her for a while.”

Leaving those words behind, Kumi-san pushed Touko-senpai’s back lightly and they left the classroom.

Early next week, Tuesday evening, after the fourth period of lectures was over.

I was seating on a bench in the middle of the courtyard, idly staring at the trees around the premises.

The courtyard was surrounded by school buildings. That fact was even more palpable today, so much so it was nigh stifling. 

Almost all of the trees had already lost all of their leaves, making one feel a stronger sensation of loneliness at their sight.

Incidentally, the cafeteria was located underneath this place.

Touko-senpai’s lessons for today should have ended by the third period. I doubted that she was still in the university.

And starting next week, our exams period also began.

… I couldn’t speak with Touko-senpai today, too…

This morning I had happened to catch sight of Touko-senpai as she left the train station. However, remembering what had transpired last Friday, I couldn’t find it in myself to call her out.

… Once the exams start, I don’t think I’ll be having many chances to meet with Touko-senpai…

The exam schedules for freshmen and sophomores were different. 

That was why my chances of meeting with Touko-senpai would plummet in one fell swoop.

… Touko-senpai. I wonder what she thinks of me… Does she think of me as nothing more than another one of her kouhai by now?…

Somehow, following after Touko-senpai with my eyes alone like this, it felt almost as if we had gone back to our high school days. I hadn’t made any progress, had I…?

… Have you thought about how much of a problem has Touko been in thanks to you?…

The words that Kumi had directed at me only a few days ago came back to haunt me.

It certainly was true that I may have been too engrossed in getting our revenge against Karen and Kamokura, and hadn’t thought deeply about what would come after it.

It was only natural that you’d become the talk of the town after making such a big ruckus.

It wouldn’t stop at simply having rumors about us going around. We would have annoying guys and other troublesome ones appearing before us one after another. 

It would be fine if it only happened to me. Because I was I man, I could simply tell them to get lost and endure it for a while before everything eventually died down.

 However, because Touko-senpai was a woman, simply having rumors about her circulating around may be incredibly trying for her.

Add to it that there also were guys like those playboys from before who would think that she was an ‘easy woman’ and try to hook her up.

… I suppose that it really is for the best that I don’t go near Touko-senpai for a while…

A sudden cold gust of wind blew past me.

It was a cold wind that seemed to pass right through me. I got the feeling that more than striking my body, it had pierced straight into my heart.

I was assaulted by something like miserable loneliness… It was just as I was getting engulfed by that sensation that it happened.

“Owah!”

I reflexively yelled and bent back in surprise.

Out of nowhere, something warm had touched my cheek.

“I, I’m sorry. Did I surprise you?”

What greeted me when I turned around behind me was Touko-senpai, standing there as she held two cups with their lids on.

Because of my almost exaggerated reaction, it was she instead who was now standing in shock.

“No, no. I’m fine. I was only taken aback slightly because it was quite sudden.”

“I did think to try and surprise you, but I never expected you to have that big of a reaction. I’m sorry.”

Touko-senpai offered her apologies to me for a second time before seating beside me and offering me one of the cups.

“Here you go. It’s some coffee. It’s cold in here, after all.”

“Oh, thank you very much.”

I tried to take out my wallet after I accepted the cup of coffee, but Touko-senpai stopped me from doing so, saying that it wasn’t necessary.

“What were you thinking about? You seemed to be quite lost in thought back then.”

She asked me just as I had finished opening the hole to drink from the lid.

“Nothing much, really. It’s not as if I had been thinking about anything that important.”

My heart beating faster all the while, I answered her like that.

I mean, the person I was just thinking about was now right before my eyes!

I could feel my heart throbbing simply by having Touko-senpai seat beside me.

I thought to myself that this was just the kind of reaction a middle schooler would have.

“Could it have been…that thing from Friday?”

Touko-senpai peeked over at my face with worried eyes.

“No, it’s not…”

Once I spoke that far only, I reconsidered.

(It may just be for the best that I speak honestly with her here.)

“If I’m being honest, that’s a part of it, too. I… I was thinking if I hadn’t ended up causing too much unnecessary trouble for you, Touko-senpai.”

“Not at all!”

Touko-senpai denied it bluntly.

 “That’s not it at all. This is not your fault in the least, Isshiki-kun. To begin with, the revenge plan was something that I proposed.”

She then turned around to look at me again before politely bowing. 

“I’m sorry. You were told such horrible things because of me. I explained everything to everyone, too, but Kumi-chan and the girls… Kumi-chan’s my classmate, and… She’s sincerely worried about me, yet she still went and said those kinds of things to you. I’m very sorry that you had to face such rude words from her all because my explanations were deficient.”

I could hear her words at the end begin to quiver. 

“No, please don’t apologize so profusely. The truth is that more than me, you, Touko-senpai, are suffering the worse from this. I feel quite sorry that it’s come to this myself, too.”

However, Touko-senpai remained with her head lowered.

“Please, please don’t apologize so much. I’m not worried about what happened last Friday. If anything, I was a little relieved at seeing that.”

“Eh?”

Touko-senpai lifted her head. Though she had a somewhat surprised expression on her face, the area around her eyes was slightly red, as I imagined.

“What I mean is, Kumi-san and the other girls are normally protecting you like that, aren’t they, Touko-senpai? I was worried this whole time about something. Whether you were being bothered by some weird guys or not. The reason for that is that I can’t be right there next to you, Touko-senpai… However, if Kumi-san and the other girls are keeping you safe in the same manner as they did that day, I think I can rest at ease.”

Hearing that, Touko-senpai smiled as she looked ready to cry any moment, yet at the same time also seemed sincerely happy.

“Isshiki-kun… Were you worried for me this whole time?

“Well, yeah, of course, I was…”

“You’re so kind, Isshiki-kun…”

I inadvertently averted my gaze and looked to the floor.

It was because that was the first time I saw that face of Touko-senpai. How do I say this? It made me feel incredibly embarrassed out of nowhere.

At the same time… It made me think that I really wanted to hug her.

“Thank you, Isshiki-kun…”

I heard those words that were coming from outside my line of sight. And together with them came a warm feeling…

In order to keep in check the emotions that were welling up in me, I brought up a different topic.

“Why did you come here, Touko-senpai? Weren’t your lessons for today supposed to have been finished early?”

When I asked, she turned to look ahead of her and held her cup of coffee with both her hands.

“You’re not wrong about that. It simply crossed my mind that I wanted to do some self-studying here at the school for a bit. It’s not like there was any need for me to hurry back home, either.”

At that moment, as if to see how I was reacting to it, she shot a glance at me.

“Is that so? It’s just that you’re always together with your friends from last time—the two girls and, Kumi-san, was it?—and leaving so soon after classes finish, so I thought you were maybe busy with something, Touko-senpai.”

After I spoke, Touko-senpai looked at me. She had a slightly dissatisfied expression on her.

“Aren’t you the one who’s always with his friends, Isshiki-kun? On your way to and fro school, you’re with Ishida-kun, and when you’re on the university grounds, you’re together with other friends from your major, no?”

“Eh…?”

I stared back at Touko-senpai reflexively.

… Could it be that… Touko-senpai has been looking at me this whole time?

“But, I thought many times if it wasn’t possible to speak with you, Touko-senpai… And I even went to the classroom where you were having your class a few times… But every time I did, you were together with someone…”

This time, it was Touko-senpai’s turn to stare in amazement.

Then, after a short pause, she let out a small snicker in amusement.

“I suppose that our timings could have been bad, then. No?”

Hearing that, I was roped in by her laugh and began smiling myself.

“You may be right. I guess you could say we weren’t in sync those times.”

The laughter we both had been holding back finally burst out.

After we had laughed for a while together, she started fumbling around her tote bag.

“And the other reason for which I came here was that I have something to give you.”

Saying that, she handed over to me an opaque and thick plastic bag. 

“This is?”

“A souvenir from Hawaii. It’s only a T-shirt, but what do you think?”

“Can I open it?”

“Go ahead.”

I opened the bag and took out the T-shirt.

The shirt was of a dark blue color with the logo of ‘88 TEES’ printed in deep red.
{TL Note: 88 Tees is a real store of souvenirs in Hawaii.}

“So, do you like it?”

“Yes, a lot! Thank you very much!”

Since she said that it was a souvenir from Hawaii, I had imagined a shirt with some gaudy pattern, but I’m glad that she chose a simple one.

“The truth is that those with designs of the cute characters from 88 Tees are the mainstream souvenirs. But I thought that you’d like better a simple one instead, Isshiki-kun.”

“Yes, with a pattern like this, I can wear it normally even here in Japan, after all. I promise I’ll treasure it.”

“I’m relieved to hear that. If I’m being honest, I was a bit worried about whether it would be to your liking, Isshiki-kun.”

Touko-senpai told me that looking very happy.

I folded the T-shirt back to how it was, returned it to its plastic bag, and stored them away inside my daypack.

Touko-senpai spoke to me while she watched me do that.

“And, what did you want to see me for?”

“One was what I already mentioned before. I was worried about you, Touko-senpai…”

She waited silently for my next words.

“The other one was, erm… We have our exams soon, and I thought it would be hard to see you during the exam period. And once those were finished, we would have our spring vacations, so before that, I…”

Time continued to advance and so came the first day of classes of the new year.

I arrived at the classroom a little earlier than usual.

In about half a month, we would be starting our final exams.

Because of that, I had gone to the library to borrow the books I needed for them, after which I had gone straight to the classroom, thus arriving somewhat earlier.

Nonetheless, seen in retrospect, that was a mistake. 

All of the students who entered the classroom after me were staring at me.

There were those who averted their gaze the moment I turned to look at them myself, and there were those that gave me a weird smile as they continued to look at me.

There were even some among them who would occasionally look at me before then starting to whisper between themselves.

This sort of stuff had never happened before. They were unpleasant gazes.

I decided to ignore all of those stares and opened one of the books I had only just borrowed.

It was an extremely basic section that explained the seven layers of the OSI Model, but nothing I read stayed in my head.

Amidst that uncomfortable situation, I felt someone’s presence right next to me.

Someone plopped into the seat beside me.

“You. You’re Isshiki Yuu, right?”

That person suddenly spoke out to me.

I lifted my eyes from the book and looked at them.

It was a man who, though we belonged to the same major and were both freshmen, had never spoken to me once before.

He had brown hair and a tanned face, and he wore two piercings on his ears. He belonged to a type of person seldom seen in the Department of Science and Engineering.

“Yes, I am. Do you have any business with me?”

That guy then spoke as he grinned at me.

“Tell me, ‘zit true that ya did it with the sophomore Sakurajima Touko on Christmas Eve?”

I wasn’t sure what I should answer here.

If I answered with a ‘yes’, the rumor would only spread and grow more.

Wouldn’t that cause problems for Touko-senpai?

Nevertheless, if I instead said ‘no’, all of the hardships we went through would come to nothing.

Whichever the case, I couldn’t answer this question carelessly.

Not to mention that I simply didn’t feel like answering this man, lecherous smile on his face, with whom I had barely even spoken at all.

“Who knows?”

I answered curtly.

“C’mon, don’t hide it from me. Ain’t it fine to tell me at least that much?”

“I don’t have any obligation to speak with you, right?”

The man then brought his tanned face close to mine.

“Y’see, this is Sakurajima Touko we’re talking about, one of the most famous beauties of the university. She’s even known as the ‘Secret Miss Jouto University’, man. Ain’t it only natural for me to get curious after hearing that a student of my same school year did it with someone that famous?”

I kept my silence.

Being asked something like this out of pure morbid curiosity was beyond disgusting.

“And that body of hers, it’s unbelievable, y’know. Such a slim body and yet those huge b*****s! She’s so aloof and acts all haughty, but that only excites men more instead. It makes me wanna ask her to let me do her once, too.”

I glared at that man.

Nothing was more revolting than listening to someone like this guy appraise Touko-senpai in that way.

Seeing me like that, that man put on a jesting mock on his face.

“Hey, come on. Don’t glare at me with such a scary face. I mean, your story’s already famous. How you guys dumped at the Christmas Party your group the two you had been dating with, and then you got over them then and there before leaving and going to a hotel. Many were surprised that, as opposed to how you look, the two of you would be so naughty.”

“Where’d you hear that story? Who told it to you?”

I wasn’t the one to ask that.

It had been a hoarse voice that came from behind me.

Turning around, I saw Ishida standing there.

Unlike his common demeanor, he had a stern look on his face.

Given how rough a face he had, simply making this kind of a face put on some serious pressure on others.

Ishida continued to speak.

“There’s more to it than that. The two of them had been cheated on by their respective lovers before that. Yuu and Touko-senpai had exposed that truth to everyone and then declared that they were cutting their relationships. There’s no reason for anyone to reproach them for it.”

The man appeared to have been intimidated by Ishida as he spoke.

“No, no need to get so angry, man. I simply happened to stumble upon that story as it was circulating on the social media, and I got a little curious and came to ask about it, that’s all!”

“Didn’t Yuu tell you he didn’t have any obligation to speak with you?”

The guy was completely cowered by now.

“I-it’s not as if I wanted to criticize Isshiki for it, man! Don’t get so mad! I’m sorry!”

With those words, the man got up from the chair and moved to another seat.

Ishida then sat beside me.

“Thanks. You really saved me, Ishida.”

I gave Ishida my sincere thanks.

“Don’t mention it. Besides, got angry just listening to that story, too.”

He then brought his head closer to me and whispered.

“That said, it IS true that you and Touko-senpai have gotten considerably famous because of what happened during the Christmas party, Yuu. Many people have already asked me about you, too.”

I heaved a sigh after hearing that.

“I wonder if Touko-senpai’s okay now that it’s become this big of a rumor.”

“I was worried about that, too. This is Touko-senpai we’re talking about, so I don’t think she’ll get discouraged so easily. Although she is also a woman, so she still worries me.”

“I’ll go see how Touko-senpai’s doing later.”

“Yeah, you should. There may be some weirdos getting close to her and giving her trouble, too. That said, I think it could be best that you spoke with Touko-senpai someplace without people around, Yuu. Otherwise, it’s very likely you’ll end up adding fuel to the fire and make the rumors worse.”

Once again, I found myself heaving a sigh. The truth was that the best solution would probably be to tell them that nothing happened between Touko-senpai and me, but we couldn’t possibly do that.

Just as Ishida had gotten his textbooks out, I suddenly remembered the thing that happened during the first shrine visit of the New Year.

I had been thinking that I wanted to ask this guy about that matter.

“Leaving that aside for a bit, Ishida, what was up with you during the first shrine visit of the year? It wasn’t like you to do something like that.”

The Ishida of always would never do something like going ahead on his own while abandoning others in that way. He was the type of person to be very considerate of those with him. I hadn’t been able to make sense of that even after I had returned to my home.

Ishida’s hand gave a start before it stopped moving. Next, he immediately gave me a forced smile.

“No, that was… I just happened to accidentally get separated from you two. It was an accident.”

I got suspicious when I saw this guy’s face right now.

The times when Ishida made this kind of a face were only when he was either lying or trying to hide something.

“Ishida, what are you hiding from me?”

I pressed even further the questioning, to which Ishida’s face twitched slightly.

“Say it. Did you have any sort of goal in doing so?”

Ishida let out a small sigh.

“Oh well, truth is there was this special banner in this gacha game during the New Year.”
{TL Note: A gacha game is one in which you spend in-game currency to receive items or characters from the game at random.}

“Huh?”

Just what in the world was Ishida talking about here?

“The banner this time was awesome, Yuu! It was one where you were guaranteed to get an SSR character! And not only that, but the probability to get one increased when you made 10-rolls or 20-rolls!”

“Hey! I was talking about the New Year here…”

“And you see, among them were several characters that I wanted. And I so happened to make one too many rolls, making the in-game charges accumulate more than I had imagined.”

Ishida continued to tell his story, not showing any intention to let me speak.

“As such, I asked Meika to lend me a bit of her New Year’s money. When I did, she gave me one condition: To make it so that she could have a talk alone with you, Yuu.”
{TL Note: It’s a custom in Japan for parents to gift money to children in the New Year. This is called otoshidama, お年玉.}

… Meika-chan did that?

I was assaulted by questions while I looked at Ishida, scratching his head and trying to laugh it off.

“Well, it is true that Meika-chan asked me if I would tutor her for some classes… But that isn’t something she couldn’t speak to me about even if you were around, Ishida.”

This time around, it was Ishida who stared at me fixedly. 

“Was that all…Meika spoke of…?”

“Yeah. The rest would be only that she said that since I’m also free, I should go play with her occasionally.”

“That’s a remarkable thickheadedness there. That’ll be another pain for her to deal with.”

Ishida was now murmuring to himself.

“What’s with you now? If you have something to say, just come out and say it.”

Being faced with Ishida acting so unlike himself, I got slightly pissed off.

“What I meant was that Meika had something she wanted to speak with you about, Yuu.”

Ishida tried to bring that conversation to an end there.

“I get that already. However, it isn’t correct for the elder brother to abandon his little sister and go somewhere on his own. What would you have done if I were some brute and did something to her? Meika-chan is very cute, so you should be more careful about doing stuff like that.”

“I’m not worried about that point in the least. I’m already well aware that if it’s you, Yuu, you’d never do anything weird or inappropriate. You’re a man who represents pesticide and additive-free safety and peace of mind, a man who brings no harm to neither humans nor animals.”

As soon as Ishida finished saying that, the bell indicating the start of the lesson rang.

Even after that incident, some idiots came to me during lunch break to ask me about that night of D-day.

Aside from them, there were also many others who were looking at me with curiosity in their eyes.

By the time the last lesson of the day came, I was already mentally exhausted.

… I wonder if Touko-senpai is okay…

I could tell the anxiety within me was growing.

Could she, a woman so proud and with such a strong sense of virtuousness, possibly withstand being watched with these kinds of eyes by those around her?

Alright, I’ll go to Touko-senpai’s classroom as soon as this lesson finishes.

It was also the perfect opportunity since Ishida wasn’t in this class with me.

I took out my smartphone and investigated the class schedule for the sophomores of the Computer Science major in the Department of Science and Engineering. 

At this time, Touko-senpai was supposedly in a classroom on the second floor of the school building No. 3.

The school building I was at was No. 4. It was a considerable distance apart from it.

I was afraid that she could end up leaving the school building before I arrived if I didn’t hurry up considerably.

There was also that… I wanted to meet with Touko-senpai no matter what.

We hadn’t met with each other even once in person since D-day. I didn’t care if it was only for a bit, I just wanted to talk with her.

I had the hunch that if I let things continue like this and spring vacations arrived, the distance between Touko-senpai and me would have grown to a hopeless degree.

“OK, then. I’ll be handing out the copies with the summary of all the main points of the material which will be covered in the next exams. Please take one and pass the rest to those behind you.”

After the bell indicating the end of the lecture rang, the teacher said that as he began to pass out the copies to the front row.

Nnngh! This teacher always finishes his lesson five minutes before the bell! And yet, today of all days he chose to extend it!

Although, I wonder if it was some sort of parental love that made him, as a teacher, think that he wanted to help his students get better grades, if only slightly.

Those guys seated at the front who had already taken their copy were the first to leave the classroom.

Dammit! I was wrong to sit at the back of the classroom so that I could leave immediately!

When at last the copies were passed to me, I quickly took out one and passed the rest behind me before flying out of the classroom at lightning speed. 

Nonetheless, the hallways were already overwhelmingly full of students who, like us, were leaving their own classrooms now that their lessons had finished.

… Oh God! Please let me make it in time!…

I hurried forward, weaving my way through the hallways overflowing with students.

This kind of remembered me of the basketball training we had back during my high school days.

At long last, I arrived at the school building No. 3’s second floor.

When I did, I caught sight of Touko-senpai’s silhouette on the other side of the hallway.

… Alright! I made it!…

I guess Touko-senpai must have been about to go back home herself. She was heading for the stairs on the opposite side from those I had come from.

I started to push my way forward anew with haste.

However, when I had come about five meters from her, I stopped moving my legs.

This was because Touko-senpai was together with two other girls.

I could see her speaking with them as she laughed happily.

As was to be expected, I didn’t have the courage to suddenly interrupt three girls when they were having a conversation.

As you already know, thanks to the events of the Christmas party, both Touko-senpai and I had become the center of attention for everyone around us.

It would be one thing if she had been by herself, but I didn’t have enough of a thick nerve to interrupt her if she was in the middle of talking with other girls like right now. Even when seen as an outsider, it was clear that I would be out of place in there.

All the zeal I had had until then evaporated into thin air as I followed Touko-senpai with my eyes as she went down the stairs.

In this January, when nightfall came earlier, I was lost in thought while I looked out the window of the railcar.

… In the end, I haven’t been able to speak with Touko-senpai in the least ever since D-day…

I unintentionally let out a sigh. I tried going to Touko-senpai’s classroom some two other times after that, but every single time, she had been speaking with her friends, making it impossible for me to speak with her.

After the Christmas party, back when Touko-senpai was about to leave the hotel room, I told her that I wanted to meet her after that time, too.

And Touko-senpai had given me her approval with a smile.

Nonetheless, ever since that moment, I hadn’t spoken with Touko-senpai even once.

During the end-of-year and New Year’s celebrations, she had gone on a trip with her family.

She had told me that because both of her parents are usually busy with their jobs, that trip during the end of the year was a very important time when they could be alone as a family.

After being told that, of course, it would be difficult for me to send her any messages inviting her to go somewhere.

The last messages we had exchanged had been telling each other ‘Happy New Year’ and some quick pleasantries on how we had been doing.

I took out my phone from my pocket and opened the social media app we used.

I entered the exclusive chatroom only Touko-senpai and I could see. We had created this chatroom for the sake of our plan of having our revenge against Kamokura and Karen.

It was something that had just happened a few days ago, but it already felt so nostalgic.

Looking back on it now, I could tell that those days of us planning our revenge were both the most fulfilling for me and a very important time that I spent with Touko-senpai.

Along with those memories of my time spent with Touko-senpai came some heartrending emotions which rippled across my chest.

However… Ever since then, I hadn’t been able to even speak with Touko-senpai, forget about meeting her.

… Touko-senpai… Does she not want to meet with me anymore?…

… We already accomplished our trauma-level revenge, after all. It’s not as if we had made any promise or anything to hang out together after that…

… Makes sense, though. Unlike how she is the one I have looked up to since my high school days, for Touko-senpai, I am nothing more than one of the many kouhai she has…

Perhaps it was because of the light of the sun setting that I was having those pessimistic thoughts welling inside of me.

But I couldn’t allow that, so I shook my head sideways and refuted them.

… No. Touko-senpai and I should no longer be in a simple senpai-kouhai relationship.

Just like how I considered Touko-senpai to be an irreplaceable existence for me, she, too, had to consider me a special existence in her mind.

For you see, we were fellow comrades who had experienced and shared the sadness and pain of having been betrayed by our lovers and then overcame them together.

When I casually turned my gaze back at my phone, I saw it had gone into sleep mode after not having been used for a while.

I returned my phone to my pocket.

That week’s Friday, too, I dashed to the classroom where Touko-senpai was having her lecture as soon as my last lesson for the day finished.

Today’s teacher had only mentioned the test’s main points before ending the lecture early.

Though that had been a godsend for me at the moment, I also had my doubts if it was okay for a class to end like that.

By the time I arrived at Touko-senpai’s classroom, the lecture had already ended.

The door of the classroom slid open, and several students came out from inside.

I peeked inside the classroom from that door. Over half of the students appeared to have left the room.

Still feeling nervous, I ran my eyes around the classroom a few times, before at last…

Found her! Touko-senpai was in there! She was seated close to the very center of the classroom.

However, Touko-senpai wasn’t alone. She was caught in between two men.

Who were those guys…? For a second, I felt like my breath got stuck in my throat. But once I looked closer, I noticed that it seemed like Touko-senpai was trying to ignore them.

Nevertheless, neither of the two men seemed to possess a sufficiently developed sensibility to care about that.

“We’ve still got some time, don’t we, Touko-chan? This is such a rare opportunity, so come get some drinks with us.”

“Yeah, he’s right. I mean, all three of us are students from the same university, right? Think of it as deepening our friendship, you know!”

One of the men had long, brown hair and wore a beard. Meanwhile, the other man had dyed his hair blond and wore it in a faux hawk style. 

Both of them were textbook images of frivolous men.

Rather, weren’t those two part of that famous playboy group of the university?
{TL Note: The term here is ‘yarisa-‘, ヤリサー, which is used to denote a club or group at a university whose main goal is to hit on members of the other s*x and have s****l relations if possible.}

They were a bunch of guys who always hung around in the cafeteria and were frowned upon by many people most of the time.

Without meeting eyes with any of the two, Touko-senpai put her textbooks away inside her bag and got up from her seat.

However, because the two men were standing to both sides of her, she could not get out into the aisle.

“Please move aside.

Touko-senpai spoke in a cold voice.

“There’s no need to be so harsh with us, wouldn’t you say? We know a nice place we could go to.”

“This is our long-awaited university life! Best to take advantage and enjoy ourselves now, right? This is the only time we’ll have to enjoy our lives to the fullest!”

The students in the vicinity all had their eyes staring at them. Even so, not a single one of them made any move to try and help. I suppose they were worried that it would spell trouble for them if they got involved in it.

As for me… I was about to jump into the middle of them but stopped in my tracks.

Seeing how we had the thing that happened at the Christmas party, wouldn’t my appearing here before Touko-senpai end up backfiring and worsening her reputation?

“I have to study for my exams. Thus, I don’t have time to spend with you guys.”

Touko-senpai didn’t bother trying to hide her anger as she said that.

Nonetheless, the pair of playboys didn’t flinch in the least.

“Come on! Don’t say that. Isn’t it fine to come drink with us for a bit?”

“They say it’s better for you to expand your personal network when you’re a student. Also, you’re available right now, right, Touko-chan?”

—I can’t stand these idiots anymore—

That may have been what passed through Touko-senpai’s mind as she tried to force her way past the brown-haired man.

However, the brown-haired man blocked her way. It seemed he didn’t intend to let her escape.

“Hey now, come on, girl. We still haven’t finished talking. It isn’t right of you to run away in the middle of our talk.”

The brown-haired man who had obstructed her advance said that, and in that opening, the blond-haired man behind Touko-senpai grabbed her bag.

“Your shoulders are going to get stiff from carrying this heavy of a bag. I’ll carry it for you.”

“Move from there already! And don’t you touch my stuff!”

This was no longer the place to worry about what others would think!

I dashed into the classroom and headed to where Touko-senpai was in one bound. I forced my way into the space between the three of them.

I started by first snatching Touko-senpai’s bag from the blond-haired man, followed by knocking away the brown-haired man. 

Having lost his balance, the brown-haired man staggered in the direction of the aisle.

“Touko-senpai, over here!”

Afterward, I brought her behind me as we escaped into the aisle and turned to glare at the brown-haired and blond-haired men before me.

For a moment, the two womanizers looked to have been taken aback by my sudden appearance, but soon after, they both laid bare their ire.

“What’s with this guy?”

“What’d you think you’re doing all of a sudden?!”

I glared back at both of them with anger.

“Don’t you fricking ask me that! Can’t you see that Touko-senpai is against it? And yet you were still being so forceful?!”

Notwithstanding how correct my view was, it didn’t seem to be getting through to the two philanderers.

“How could you possibly know whether she’s against it or not?!”

“I’ll bet that girl too wishes that someone would ask her out! If she were so against it, wouldn’t she have already left long ago? You don’t have any right to say we were being forceful.”

“Don’t f**k with me!”

I bellowed in anger.

“If that just now wasn’t being forceful, then what would you call it?! Didn’t you two bastards have her trapped between the two of you so that she couldn’t escape?! And not only that, but you even went so far as to steal her bag and try to use it as leverage against her!”

The brown-haired man then showed us a lecherous smile.

“You’ve got it all wrong there. If she was really against it, she could’ve simply escaped by shoving us aside or something. The fact that she didn’t do that means that that girl’s true intentions are that she wants to play with us. That refusal she showed to us may’ve been nothing more than a simple act, you know?”

“As if that kind of crap was true! Touko-senpai would never do anything like that!”

“Oh, but it is. Or could it be you haven’t heard them? The rumors about that girl. Just so you know, they say that girl dumped her boyfriend at the Christmas party and went into a hotel with a male kouhai of hers to have s*x. A woman like her…”

Just when I was about to punch the brown-haired guy in the face out of anger, the blond-haired man, who has behind him, pointed at me.

“Hey, this guy… Isn’t he the kouhai from the rumors~? The one who dumped his girlfriend at the Christmas party and went to the hotel with Touko-chan.”

Having heard that, the brown-haired guy glance me over anew.

“I see. You’re that very guy, huh? If I’m not mistaken, he was a freshman at the Department of Science and Engineering. I think his name was ‘Isshiki Yuu’.”

I was at a loss for words for an instant. Nonetheless, I couldn’t allow myself to fall back at this point.

“And what if that was true?”

The brown-haired guy made an even more lascivious smile.

“Whaat? So that’s why you butted in? You, are you Touko-chan’s new boyfriend?”

I couldn’t reply to him immediately. It wasn’t my place to say that I was Touko-senpai’s boyfriend.

“If you aren’t her boyfriend, get lost. You don’t have any right to complain about what we’re doing.”

Perhaps because he had perceived my hesitation, the blond-haired man gave me a smile that said he had seen right through me as he spoke.

“Stop fucking around! I’m not letting YOU guys touch Touko-senpai anymore than you’ve already done!”

It was at that moment that a sharp woman’s voice resounded in the classroom.

“You guys! What do you think you’re doing?!”

Turning to look in the direction of the voice, I saw three girls walking toward us while glaring at us.

Two of those girls were the same ones that had been together with Touko-senpai just a few days ago.

They then positioned themselves to surround Touko-senpai, and the girl with the short-cut hairstyle who was at the front of them all spoke.

“I left before because I had been called to the Registrar’s office. And what were you three men trying to do to Touko-senpai in the meantime?!”

“Eh? I wa…”

“If you were thinking of doing something to her forcefully, just know I won’t let you guys off so easily!”

The girl with the short-cut hair didn’t allow me to say any more than that.

She may have been of short stature, but she had an unfathomably overpowering presence.

It would seem that I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. From what I could see, both of the playboys were being overwhelmed by her.

“Not at all! We weren’t thinking of doing anything to her!”

“We were only inviting her to come drink with us for a bit, you know? Don’t get so angry about that.”

As soon as they said that, they both made haste to get away from that place.

The short-cut hair girl then glared at me.

“Are you telling me you still want to do something to Touko?”

“Wait! That’s not it, Kumi. Isshiki-kun only got involved to save me.”

Touko-senpai intruded on the conversation in a hurry.

The short-cut hair girl named Kumi had an expression of surprise for an instant, but she immediately returned it to a stern one.

“I see, so you’re Isshiki Yuu…”

Though she murmured my name, there was no change to the grim expression on her face.

When I turned to look at them, I noticed the other two girls were looking at me with harsh expressions, too.

Suddenly, Kumi-san turned around at once, facing her back to me, before encouraging Touko-senpai and the other two girls to leave.

The three of them surrounded Touko-senpai as they began walking, just as if protecting her.

Once they were at a slight distance from me, only Kumi-san alone stopped walking for a moment and shot a glance at me from over her shoulder.

“Isshiki-kun, was it? I already heard from Touko that you’re not at fault for any of this. But still, have you thought about how much of a problem has Touko been in thanks to you?”

I could feel my whole body stiffen when I heard those words.

… So Touko-senpai really was…

“Kumi, I’m not so troubled about it… Not to mention that Isshiki-kun is not responsible for any of this in any way.”

Even though Touko-senpai said that as she turned around, neither Kumi-san nor any of the other two girls lent an ear to her.

“If you care for Touko, then do her a favor and don’t come near her for a while.”

Leaving those words behind, Kumi-san pushed Touko-senpai’s back lightly and they left the classroom.

Early next week, Tuesday evening, after the fourth period of lectures was over.

I was seating on a bench in the middle of the courtyard, idly staring at the trees around the premises.

The courtyard was surrounded by school buildings. That fact was even more palpable today, so much so it was nigh stifling. 

Almost all of the trees had already lost all of their leaves, making one feel a stronger sensation of loneliness at their sight.

Incidentally, the cafeteria was located underneath this place.

Touko-senpai’s lessons for today should have ended by the third period. I doubted that she was still in the university.

And starting next week, our exams period also began.

… I couldn’t speak with Touko-senpai today, too…

This morning I had happened to catch sight of Touko-senpai as she left the train station. However, remembering what had transpired last Friday, I couldn’t find it in myself to call her out.

… Once the exams start, I don’t think I’ll be having many chances to meet with Touko-senpai…

The exam schedules for freshmen and sophomores were different. 

That was why my chances of meeting with Touko-senpai would plummet in one fell swoop.

… Touko-senpai. I wonder what she thinks of me… Does she think of me as nothing more than another one of her kouhai by now?…

Somehow, following after Touko-senpai with my eyes alone like this, it felt almost as if we had gone back to our high school days. I hadn’t made any progress, had I…?

… Have you thought about how much of a problem has Touko been in thanks to you?…

The words that Kumi had directed at me only a few days ago came back to haunt me.

It certainly was true that I may have been too engrossed in getting our revenge against Karen and Kamokura, and hadn’t thought deeply about what would come after it.

It was only natural that you’d become the talk of the town after making such a big ruckus.

It wouldn’t stop at simply having rumors about us going around. We would have annoying guys and other troublesome ones appearing before us one after another. 

It would be fine if it only happened to me. Because I was I man, I could simply tell them to get lost and endure it for a while before everything eventually died down.

 However, because Touko-senpai was a woman, simply having rumors about her circulating around may be incredibly trying for her.

Add to it that there also were guys like those playboys from before who would think that she was an ‘easy woman’ and try to hook her up.

… I suppose that it really is for the best that I don’t go near Touko-senpai for a while…

A sudden cold gust of wind blew past me.

It was a cold wind that seemed to pass right through me. I got the feeling that more than striking my body, it had pierced straight into my heart.

I was assaulted by something like miserable loneliness… It was just as I was getting engulfed by that sensation that it happened.

“Owah!”

I reflexively yelled and bent back in surprise.

Out of nowhere, something warm had touched my cheek.

“I, I’m sorry. Did I surprise you?”

What greeted me when I turned around behind me was Touko-senpai, standing there as she held two cups with their lids on.

Because of my almost exaggerated reaction, it was she instead who was now standing in shock.

“No, no. I’m fine. I was only taken aback slightly because it was quite sudden.”

“I did think to try and surprise you, but I never expected you to have that big of a reaction. I’m sorry.”

Touko-senpai offered her apologies to me for a second time before seating beside me and offering me one of the cups.

“Here you go. It’s some coffee. It’s cold in here, after all.”

“Oh, thank you very much.”

I tried to take out my wallet after I accepted the cup of coffee, but Touko-senpai stopped me from doing so, saying that it wasn’t necessary.

“What were you thinking about? You seemed to be quite lost in thought back then.”

She asked me just as I had finished opening the hole to drink from the lid.

“Nothing much, really. It’s not as if I had been thinking about anything that important.”

My heart beating faster all the while, I answered her like that.

I mean, the person I was just thinking about was now right before my eyes!

I could feel my heart throbbing simply by having Touko-senpai seat beside me.

I thought to myself that this was just the kind of reaction a middle schooler would have.

“Could it have been…that thing from Friday?”

Touko-senpai peeked over at my face with worried eyes.

“No, it’s not…”

Once I spoke that far only, I reconsidered.

(It may just be for the best that I speak honestly with her here.)

“If I’m being honest, that’s a part of it, too. I… I was thinking if I hadn’t ended up causing too much unnecessary trouble for you, Touko-senpai.”

“Not at all!”

Touko-senpai denied it bluntly.

 “That’s not it at all. This is not your fault in the least, Isshiki-kun. To begin with, the revenge plan was something that I proposed.”

She then turned around to look at me again before politely bowing. 

“I’m sorry. You were told such horrible things because of me. I explained everything to everyone, too, but Kumi-chan and the girls… Kumi-chan’s my classmate, and… She’s sincerely worried about me, yet she still went and said those kinds of things to you. I’m very sorry that you had to face such rude words from her all because my explanations were deficient.”

I could hear her words at the end begin to quiver. 

“No, please don’t apologize so profusely. The truth is that more than me, you, Touko-senpai, are suffering the worse from this. I feel quite sorry that it’s come to this myself, too.”

However, Touko-senpai remained with her head lowered.

“Please, please don’t apologize so much. I’m not worried about what happened last Friday. If anything, I was a little relieved at seeing that.”

“Eh?”

Touko-senpai lifted her head. Though she had a somewhat surprised expression on her face, the area around her eyes was slightly red, as I imagined.

“What I mean is, Kumi-san and the other girls are normally protecting you like that, aren’t they, Touko-senpai? I was worried this whole time about something. Whether you were being bothered by some weird guys or not. The reason for that is that I can’t be right there next to you, Touko-senpai… However, if Kumi-san and the other girls are keeping you safe in the same manner as they did that day, I think I can rest at ease.”

Hearing that, Touko-senpai smiled as she looked ready to cry any moment, yet at the same time also seemed sincerely happy.

“Isshiki-kun… Were you worried for me this whole time?

“Well, yeah, of course, I was…”

“You’re so kind, Isshiki-kun…”

I inadvertently averted my gaze and looked to the floor.

It was because that was the first time I saw that face of Touko-senpai. How do I say this? It made me feel incredibly embarrassed out of nowhere.

At the same time… It made me think that I really wanted to hug her.

“Thank you, Isshiki-kun…”

I heard those words that were coming from outside my line of sight. And together with them came a warm feeling…

In order to keep in check the emotions that were welling up in me, I brought up a different topic.

“Why did you come here, Touko-senpai? Weren’t your lessons for today supposed to have been finished early?”

When I asked, she turned to look ahead of her and held her cup of coffee with both her hands.

“You’re not wrong about that. It simply crossed my mind that I wanted to do some self-studying here at the school for a bit. It’s not like there was any need for me to hurry back home, either.”

At that moment, as if to see how I was reacting to it, she shot a glance at me.

“Is that so? It’s just that you’re always together with your friends from last time—the two girls and, Kumi-san, was it?—and leaving so soon after classes finish, so I thought you were maybe busy with something, Touko-senpai.”

After I spoke, Touko-senpai looked at me. She had a slightly dissatisfied expression on her.

“Aren’t you the one who’s always with his friends, Isshiki-kun? On your way to and fro school, you’re with Ishida-kun, and when you’re on the university grounds, you’re together with other friends from your major, no?”

“Eh…?”

I stared back at Touko-senpai reflexively.

… Could it be that… Touko-senpai has been looking at me this whole time?

“But, I thought many times if it wasn’t possible to speak with you, Touko-senpai… And I even went to the classroom where you were having your class a few times… But every time I did, you were together with someone…”

This time, it was Touko-senpai’s turn to stare in amazement.

Then, after a short pause, she let out a small snicker in amusement.

“I suppose that our timings could have been bad, then. No?”

Hearing that, I was roped in by her laugh and began smiling myself.

“You may be right. I guess you could say we weren’t in sync those times.”

The laughter we both had been holding back finally burst out.

After we had laughed for a while together, she started fumbling around her tote bag.

“And the other reason for which I came here was that I have something to give you.”

Saying that, she handed over to me an opaque and thick plastic bag. 

“This is?”

“A souvenir from Hawaii. It’s only a T-shirt, but what do you think?”

“Can I open it?”

“Go ahead.”

I opened the bag and took out the T-shirt.

The shirt was of a dark blue color with the logo of ‘88 TEES’ printed in deep red.
{TL Note: 88 Tees is a real store of souvenirs in Hawaii.}

“So, do you like it?”

“Yes, a lot! Thank you very much!”

Since she said that it was a souvenir from Hawaii, I had imagined a shirt with some gaudy pattern, but I’m glad that she chose a simple one.

“The truth is that those with designs of the cute characters from 88 Tees are the mainstream souvenirs. But I thought that you’d like better a simple one instead, Isshiki-kun.”

“Yes, with a pattern like this, I can wear it normally even here in Japan, after all. I promise I’ll treasure it.”

“I’m relieved to hear that. If I’m being honest, I was a bit worried about whether it would be to your liking, Isshiki-kun.”

Touko-senpai told me that looking very happy.

I folded the T-shirt back to how it was, returned it to its plastic bag, and stored them away inside my daypack.

Touko-senpai spoke to me while she watched me do that.

“And, what did you want to see me for?”

“One was what I already mentioned before. I was worried about you, Touko-senpai…”

She waited silently for my next words.

“The other one was, erm… We have our exams soon, and I thought it would be hard to see you during the exam period. And once those were finished, we would have our spring vacations, so before that, I…”

I was unable to get any more words out of my mouth.

It wasn’t as if I had had anything concretely planned out.

I simply wanted to see Touko-senpai and talk with her. That was all.

I didn’t want us to continue like that and end up going back to being only a senpai and her kouhai.

Touko-senpai stared at my face for a while, but before long, she stood up with her cup in her hands.

She went to a trash can a bit of a distance afar to throw her cup in, and then returned to where I was. With both her hands behind her back, she bent forward and peeked at my face.

“Say, do you know if there’s any place that still has its Winter illuminations ongoing?”
{TL Note: Not sure if ‘Christmas illuminations’ or ‘Christmas lights’, which are closer to the original クリマスイルミネーション, were correct, hence went with this name.}

“Winter…illuminations?”

“Yeah. We had our minds full with the revenge plan during Christmas, remember? That made me think that we still hadn’t enjoyed the Christmas spirit yet because of it.”

I looked up at Touko-senpai. Her eyes at that time were smiling ever so gently.

“Letting the festivities end like this would feel very lonely if you ask me. That’s why we should have our own Christmas redo, the two of us alone. What do you think?”

“You’re right! Would you like to go see them after our exams are over? Leave the search for a place that still has them to me. There ought to be some places that still have them!”

I said that in a cheerful voice as I stood up.

“Thank you. I’m looking forward to it now.”

Touko-senpai’s visage as she said that was shining brightly, like that of a girl who is illuminated by the setting sun.

 

On that day, I was in high spirits, too.

This was because, two days before, Touko-senpai had said to me, ‘That’s why we should have our own Christmas redo, the two of us alone. What do you think?’. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would receive an invitation coming from her.

Together with Touko-senpai as we watched the Winter illuminations in the night. Our Re-Christmas for only the two of us.

Somehow, I felt like everything that awaited me in my future was rose-colored.

Even I considered myself to be a little too easy for being this ecstatic from but a few words from Touko-senpai, but I suppose that’s the sort of beings men are.

It was for that reason that I had stayed up until late night hours yesterday, searching around the Internet for places that still had their Winter illuminations even in February.

As you’d imagine, the nighttime illuminations were mainly held close to Christmas, but apparently, some places like Ginza, Hibiya, Marunouchi, Roppongi, and Shiodome, among others, continued to keep their lights up even during February.

… Going shopping together with Touko-senpai, followed by eating dinner, and then watching the illuminations. And after that, the two of us will…

… Touko-senpai looking up at the lights from the illuminations under the night sky. And I would be standing next to her, looking at her profile…

Touko-senpai whispers into my ear.

“The truth is I was lonely, too.”

“I was, too. I thought that you didn’t want to meet with me anymore, Touko-senpai…”

Then, softly, Touko-senpai presses her head against my shoulder…

“That’s not true. We will be together from now and forever.”

Our hands, Touko-senpai’s and mine, are naturally drawn to each other as they eventually hold each other…

There was a sound of something being released and then stopping.

Noticing it, I raised my head with a start and saw the doors of the wagon had just finished closing at that very moment.

What’s more, it was the station I get off at…

… Shoot! I dove too deep into the world of my fantasies and ended up missing my stop!…

Dammit. Ishida’s bad habit of daydreaming was starting to rub off on me.

 

I, who had missed his stop by one station, barely made it in time for my lesson of Economics.

(Because the teacher was already in the classroom, it would be more correct to say that I made it in time for roll call.)

However, almost all of the seats were filled by the time I entered the classroom.

… Were there always this many people who took this class?…

Entertaining such thoughts, I passed my Student ID in front of the scanner and sat at the back of the classroom, in the row closest to the entrance.

This classroom had desks that sat six people laid out freely around it.

Thinking about the next person who would jump into the classroom, I moved to one of the innermost seats of the desk for six people.

I took out my Economics textbook and opened it. It was out of the question to fail the courses pertaining to my major, but failing one of the general education ones was going to be a pain down the line, too. It wasn’t as if I was aiming to get particularly high grades, but I was endeavoring to not drop any courses or lose credits.

I cast my eyes down vacantly on the page I opened the book at.

I suddenly noticed that there was a scribble of a heart pierced by an arrow in it.

This was one of Karen’s doodles.

Back when we had only started dating, we had spoken about doing our best to try and take the most lessons we could together in later semesters.

There weren’t that many general education courses shared between Science & Engineering and Literature, but courses from outside of our bachelor’s, like Economics, Law, Bookkeeping, Information Literacy, etc. were common for all the majors. It was as part of those courses that we could take together that I was taking this Economics class. 

Perhaps because she wanted to look fashionable, but Karen was fond of bringing a smallish bag in which she could only carry the bare minimum of textbooks. 

That was why, during this Economics class, she would always seat next to me, and we would both use my textbook.

The scribbles that she drew during that time all remained intact.

… Though the end of our relationship was the worst, I suppose this constituted another memory of us, no?…

That I was able to think about this in such a way must have meant that I had finally managed to let go of all my feelings for Karen.

 

It happened while I was having those thoughts in my mind.

Around four students barged into the classroom, passing through the door that had remained open until now.

They all passed their Student IDs in front of the scanner located next to the classroom entrance at high speed, and in that same manner rushed into the row of desks closest to them. The row where I was seated in.

There was a clattering of four chairs as they plopped into them.

The vibrations from the four of them sitting down passed through the desk all the way to me.

… What a noisy bunch. Can’t they sit down more quietly?

I casually turned to look in their direction when… Oh my God! Seated right next to me was Karen!

It couldn’t be that the real one appeared because I was thinking about her, right?

Karen, too, tilted her head and looked at me. Our eyes met.

“Tch.”

“Haahh.”

Karen’s tongue clicking and my sigh were almost simultaneous.

However, in the next instant, Karen’s expression turned into a stern one and she looked at me.

“What’s with that disgust-filled sigh of yours?”

“Didn’t you click your tongue, too, Karen? The same goes to you, too, then.”

“Just so you know, it’s the same for me. It’s not as if I sat next to you because I wanted to. I simply hurried to sit down, and when I did, you were there next to me! It couldn’t be helped, OK?!”

“In that case, move to some other seat right now, will you?”

“Can’t you see it? There are three people over to my side! Meanwhile, isn’t there only one person next to you? You’re the one that should be moving to another seat!”

Karen was as obstinate as ever.

The last time I had seen this girl face to face was on D-day, at that Christmas Eve party.

There was no way either of us could possibly act all cool about it.

I looked to my right side. There was a single student in there, and next to them was the aisle.

Nonetheless, the lesson had already begun. It was very hard by now to say something like, ‘I want to move to another seat, so could I ask you to move aside for a bit?’.

I decided to devote myself wholly to the lesson, not speaking another word. It would fall on deaf ears if I said anything to this girl.

I should just treat it as if Karen wasn’t there at all.

As for Karen, she didn’t say anything else after that, too.

We ended our relationship and cut all ties with each other at that Christmas Party. I shouldn’t get involved with her any more than this.

Whatever the case, in spite of this girl having been the one who created all that trouble for us, she wasn’t planning on apologizing to me even once, was she?

I found myself getting angry again when I thought back on the deeds Karen had done.

Was my previous thought of having let go of all my feelings for her my misunderstanding?

That said, getting more irritated than this all for the likes of Karen would be detrimental to my mental health.

To clear my mind from this, I decided to think about the Christmas Redo Touko-senpai and I would have.

That kind yet slightly embarrassed smile of Touko-senpai.

Simply remembering it made me get this heartwarming sensation in me.

As I continued to make the plan for my date with Touko-senpai, my hands almost unconsciously wrote down the page numbers and equation numbers the teacher dictated.

Most of the time, this teacher only asked us to read the textbook. He would occasionally draw a diagram or a graph, but their class was mainly explaining the contents of the textbook before moving on.

Today was the last class before the exam, and as such, they were writing the mandatory topics and formulae for the exam one after another.

It was quite easy since it was enough for me to only move my hands and take notes of them without having to use my head.

“This next one’s very important. The way of thinking used with the consumption function and the linear regression that comes from the least squares method that follows it.”

The teacher said that to us in a voice from which you couldn’t feel a lot of enthusiasm.

Karen’s working space happened to enter my line of sight then.

She had her notebook opened, but she didn’t have a textbook.

And if she didn’t have a textbook, she wouldn’t be able to understand a single thing of what the teacher was saying in today’s lesson.

… You’re telling me this girl didn’t bring even her textbook with her yet again?…

I was already getting tired of this.

Of course, even Karen wouldn’t be thinking of something as ridiculous as looking at the same textbook as me with how things were between us, would she?

However, perhaps because of how she had been depending on me up to now, she had subconsciously made it a habit of hers not to bring along her textbook for this class, or maybe she even lost her textbook.

… Well, not that any of that has anything to do with me. Don’t expect others to be there for you forever, girl…

Even if Karen was to end up failing and losing the credits for this class because of this, it would only be her getting her just desserts. Karen wasn’t even that good with mathematics, to being with.

I shot a glance in Karen’s direction.

Karen’s face was frozen in place as she stared fixedly in front of her. However, her hand wasn’t moving at all.

For some reason, I got an uncomfortable sensation when I saw her like that.

Even though whatever happened to Karen should have had nothing to do with me anymore.

Without a word, I quietly slid the textbook over to where Karen was and pointed with my finger to the place where the formulae the teacher had said were important were.

Karen noticed it and stared at it.

A few seconds later, she only said, ‘What’s with that?’.

“It’s the place that the teacher spoke of just now. This formula, too. If you take notes of the page number and number of the equation, you can easily look them up later in your textbook, right?”

Karen stared at the textbook I was holding out at her for a while.

“It’s fine, I don’t need it. I’ll memorize them right now.”

“Can you do that without the textbook? In actuality, aren’t you seriously troubled at not even knowing which sections’ explanations they’re talking about? If things keep as they are, you’ll be failing the class, right, Karen?”

Karen remained with a troubled expression on her face, never meeting my eyes. Soon after, she murmured in a low voice.

“OK, then. I’ll be returning you this favor with some other thing.”

“Don’t worry. It’s not as if I was trying to have you owe me anything this late in the game.”

Rather, if you asked me, my unabridged feelings were that I didn’t want to involve myself with Karen anymore than this.

“I don’t want to be owing you anything!”

Karen spat out those words in anger.

Oh, whatever! She could do as she pleased.

 

The lesson ended.

Just as I was getting up from my seat, Karen, too, stood up and looked at me.

Was she going to say thank you or something?

That was my first thought, but she wasn’t that admirable a woman as to do that.

“Lately, I had seen you looking depressed a lot of the time, but you seem to be in oddly high spirits today.”

“I’m not really in high spirits or anything.”

“You are. Even in the middle of this class right now I could see you grinning to yourself now and then. You were so gross that I could barely put up with it. Honestly, you were so cringe.”

This girl… Just when was she keeping tabs on me?

“Not that it has anything to do with you, right, Karen?”

“To heck if it had anything to do with me! Well, I can still make a guess as to why you’d be in such a good mood, though. I’ll bet it has something to do with Touko.”

Karen said that with an annoyed face at having been taken for a fool.

“You’re calling our senpai without any honorifics?”
{TL Note: The honorifics are the -san, -sensei, -sama, etc. that are appended to a name in Japanese. They are mainly used to show respect since calling someone directly by their name sounds over-familiar in Japanese.}

I reproached Karen for it, and she simply gave me a ‘hmph!’ for an answer.

“She’s no longer a senpai nor anything at all for me! There’s no need for me to show her any sort of respect then, is there?”

Trying to reason with her any more than this is a waste of time.

I decided it was time to ignore this girl. I slung my daypack over my shoulder, turned my back to Karen, and walked into the aisle.

“Oh, fine. I’ll make sure to do it next time, okay? Also, I’ll pay back this favor to you, so I’m not saying thanks here!”

I could hear those words being directed at me come from behind me.

 

I headed towards the school cafeteria located on the fifth floor of the school building No. 2 during lunch break.

After receiving the set meal of karaage I had ordered, I ran my eyes across the many tables lined up one next to the other.

When I did, I saw one guy waving his hand over at me. It was Ishida.

I headed over to his table and sat next to Ishida.

And sitting opposite us was Nakazaki-san, the president of our group.

Ishida and I had been called over today by Nakazaki-san.

“What did you have to speak with us about, Nakazaki-san?”

With my untouched karaage set meal before me, I broached the subject with that question.

Nakazaki-san had ramen and soboro don.
{TL Note: Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup with a selection of vegetables and meats, often topped with a boiled egg. A don stands for a donburi, a Japanese dish where meat and/or vegetables are placed on top of a bed of steamed rice, all served in a bowl. Soboro is minced meat/chicken/fish that is seasoned and fried.}

“Sure. It’s fine if you hear me out while you eat.”

Next to me, Ishida was already taking a bite out of his shougayaki set meal.
{TL Note: Shougayaki is pork fried with ginger.}

“You know that our group holds this ski camp every year in winter, right?”

Ishida and I both nodded in silence.

Our group, ‘Wakiaiai’, was at present a group that held any and all sorts of events. Originally, though, it started as an outdoor-type group that focused on events like camping and trekking.

The ski camp was one that has continued to be held every year since those days.

“Well, it’s about that ski trip. The thing is, it’s looking like the number of participants this year have decreased and are about to fall below the minimum number of people necessary for it.”

Nakazaki-san spoke as if sighing the whole time.

“Eh? Why is that happening?”

Ishida asked him in confusion, but I already had my own conjectures as to the reason.

Nakazaki-san shot a quick glance at me before beginning to speak while looking conflicted.

“First, we have that Karen and her five followers left the group, remember? Next, there are around 10 female university students that were looking to get closer to Kamokura who are saying they won’t participate in the ski camp. They may even leave the group in the same fashion, too. After all, I don’t think Kamokura’ll be showing his face in the group anymore.”

… I knew it. That was the reason, huh…

The karaage in my mouth suddenly had a bitter taste to it.

My revenge plan was having consequences even in this.

“And that’s not all. Apparently, even Touko-san isn’t participating in it.”

“Even Touko-senpai?!”

I couldn’t help raising my voice when I asked that.

“Yeah, since she has become the target of many different rumors going around the university. I imagine she doesn’t want to show herself in the group given that it’s the root of it all.”

I inadvertently found myself looking down at the table.

Just before, I had finally managed to feel completely relieved after Touko-senpai mentioned the Christmas redo for the two of us alone.

However, it may have been that the shock that Touko-senpai suffered from the recoil of our revenge plan had been stronger than I had imagined.

Continuing to bring the shougayaki to his mouth, Ishida inquired.

“What is the biggest problem from going below the minimum number of participants required?”

“That would be the bus and lodging. I arranged for us to rent a charter bus. As for the hotel, I already reserved enough rooms for 30 people. As such, if we end up falling below the minimum number of participants, it will mean that the attendance fee per person will increase. If that happens, it may lead to even fewer people taking part in it.”
{TL Note: In here, Nakazaki says 中型バス (lit. mid-size bus), which in Japan mainly refers to a minibus that carries 27 or 28 people. However, considering the rooms he reserved, I supposed it could be a slightly larger bus, too, and hence left it as ‘charter bus’.}

Nakazaki-san seemed to be seriously troubled by it, seeing how he grabbed his head.

“And for what reason did you call both of us here?”

Nakazaki-san raised his head after I made that question.

“One reason is to ask for your advice. I would like to have at least 5 more people guaranteed. That’s why I’d like to get more participants. I don’t care if they’re only friends with one of our members and don’t belong to our group themselves.”

“Got it! Are siblings fine, too?”

Ishida asked.

For some reason, I felt a tinge of anxiety at his question.

If we were talking about a sibling of Ishida, the only possible person was Meika-chan.

“Yeah, siblings and relatives are all welcome with open arms.”

“I don’t have any siblings, and even if you asked me about someone who wasn’t in the club, I don’t really have anyone in mind…”

I said that while feeling slightly uncertain.

It was because I was responsible for this that I felt that I wanted to do everything I could to help.

Nonetheless, frankly speaking, I didn’t have any person who could come together with me on this trip come to mind.

Notwithstanding, Nakazaki-san shook his head sideways slightly.

“If you don’t have anyone, then that can’t be helped. But more importantly, Isshiki-kun, could I ask you to try and convince Touko-san to take part in the trip?”

“Me? Convince Touko-senpai?”

“Yes. Regardless of what anyone says, Touko-san is the ‘true Miss Jouto University’, as well as the goddess of our circle. There are many guys with their sights on Touko-san, too. I’m quite certain that the mood concerning this trip will change completely depending on whether she takes part or not.”

“But, do you really think that Touko-senpai will change her mind simply by having me invite her to come?”

Nakazaki-san nodded with a lot of confidence.

“I believe that it’ll certainly do so. Touko-san trusts in you, Isshiki-kun. Not to mention that I also think that there’s a very good atmosphere between the two of you. If she still says no after you invited her, Isshiki-kun, then we can say she won’t change her mind no matter what anyone else says to her.”

I didn’t know what Nakazaki-san was basing himself to be able to say that…

“Understood. For the time being, I’ll try telling Touko-senpai to go on the trip.”

Nonetheless, I had no other option but to answer like that at this moment.