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Mochizuki Souta

Birthday: September 3
Horoscope Sign: Virgo
Blood Type: B
 

Natsuki’s childhood friend. In the Film Club. Can be honest to a fault, and is often teased by his friends.


—–
 

practice 5

His school uniform still felt stiff on his body.

Even after a week had passed since the end of summer vacation, Yuu still wasn’t used to wearing his uniform again.

‘Come to think of it, I was absent for the first day back this year, too…’

Although it was because the first day back at school had overlapped with cram school boot camp, Yuu was glad that he’d had a legitimate excuse to not have to see Koyuki.

Ever since he’d caught him on that “date” with Natsuki, things between them had been like a cold war.
 

‘….Somehow, this summer vacation felt really short.’

As he headed for short homeroom, the heat got the better of him, and he unbuttoned his collar.

Although summer vacation itself had ended in a flash, the heat of summer still lingered. It was so hot, he felt like he might melt.
 

‘Ugh, speak of the devil…’

Looking out the window, he saw Koyuki crouched down in front of a flowerbed. Back when he’d met him at the park, his skin had been even paler than Natsuki’s, but after tending to the flowerbeds outside as part of his club activities, it seemed like he’d gotten a bit tanned.

Yuu stopped walking, and watched his head of soft hair move restlessly.
 

‘I guess he really does have a crush on Natsuki, huh…’

He’d suspected as such a while back, due to the fact that Koyuki looked at Natsuki in a way that made it seem like he thought of her as more than just a classmate or a friend that shared the same interests.

What confirmed his doubts were the words that Koyuki had said to him at the park.

“It isn’t fair of you to do this if you aren’t going to compete!”

He must have meant competing to be Natsuki’s boyfriend.
 

‘Still, it’s not like Ayase’s confessed yet, either.’

If he had, Natsuki would have shown some kind of reaction.

He’d tried asking her about it offhandedly, but it didn’t seem like he had, after all.
 

“Like I’m saying, you’re just misunderstanding.”

The day after he’d walked her home from the park, that was the first thing Natsuki had said to him when she’d stormed up to his room.

She told him that she’d started crying because she’d been started by Yuu’s sudden aggressiveness.
 

Although it sounded like a bad excuse, he decided not to push it anymore, since there was something else that bothered him even more.

“Then what about Ayase hugging you? What was that all about?”

Natsuki had widened her eyes, and then nervously averted her gaze.

Yuu stared at her, waiting patiently for an answer as to not jump to baseless conclusions again.

Before long, Natsuki crossed her arms in front of her chest, and said while tilting her head,

“Why was he hugging me?”
 

That’s what I wanna know!

Holding back the urge to scream, he tried to get an answer out of her by asking more questions.

But since she only laughed and promptly replied with, “I don’t really remember!” he had no choice but to give up.
 

Moreover, after getting annoyed over how clueless Natsuki was, they’d ended up getting into an argument and splitting up for the day.

‘Although, thanks to Hina butting in, we started talking like usual again by the next day…’

Natsuki must have also felt something like an invisible wall had been wedged between them.

They’d stopped doing confession rehearsals lately, and even when they tried chatting, it felt strangely awkward.
 

“…Wish everything would just work themselves out…”

As if he’d heard him mutter this to himself, Koyuki turned to face in his direction.

Feeling their eyes meet, Yuu quickly moved away from the window.

‘Wait, what am I running away for?’

He thought, and looked out the window again, but Koyuki was already nowhere to be seen.

“….Guess I’ll head over for my club activities too.”
 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
 

Face-to-face with Haruki and Souta in the club room, Yuu flipped through the pages of the script , covered in sticky notes.

He snuck a glance at the other two, and noticed they were acting a bit strangely. They kept suddenly going back a page, or turning several pages at once at weird timings.

‘Well, with how dark those circles under their eyes are, I guess it’s a given they’re kinda out of it.’

A movie isn’t completed as soon as the filming is done; there’s a lot of editing that has to be done before the final product.

Counting backwards from the deadline date, they didn’t have much time to finish filming the scenes.
 

‘They’ve been working hard with filming even when I have cram school, huh…’

Now, it was Yuu’s turn to take the baton.

He tightened his grip on the script in his hand, and spoke up in a firm voice.

“So basically, we’ve filmed all the scenes that we’re able to at the moment. I’ll help check them over for now.”

“…Yeah, thanks,”

Haruki answered in a slightly hoarse voice, and beside him, Souta nodded limply.

He felt bad for pressing them about it so suddenly, but without understanding how far everyone was, it would be hard to manage the schedule. While still feeling apologetic, Yuu opened his memo for taking notes and continued.
 

“Mochita, how are Hayasaka’s drawings coming along?”

“….Um, well, about that….”

As Souta struggled to answer, Yuu glanced over at Haruki.

However, Haruki only shook his head loosely and gestured at Souta with his chin.

‘Guess that he means that Mochita’s in charge of this.’

At first, Haruki had also helped in contacting Akari, but in the end, that task had been left solely to Souta. They’d been contacting each other through text messages, but since Souta still seemed pretty nervous about it despite that, Yuu had been a bit worried….
 

“Don’t tell me you’ve lost contact with her?”

“Have you even been texting her like you’re supposed to?”

“What?! Come on, of course I have!”

As Souta furrowed his brows in annoyance, Yuu and Haruki cracked jokes at him one after another.
 

“Even so, weren’t you about to pass out the last time you guys met in person?”

“If I hadn’t acted quickly enough and taken over when I did, he would’ve fainted right then and there.”

“Th-Thanks a lot for saving me that time…! But really, I’ve been doing fine on my own now. I even go to see see how much she’s done once a week.”

Souta pounded his chest in triumph, but in contrast to that, his expression darkened a bit.

“If it’s going so well, what are you making that face for?”

“That’s because, um, well….”
 

As soon as Yuu called him out, Souta got flustered again.

Just as Yuu was about to give him that last push for an answer, Haruki snapped his fingers.

“I know. It’s because Hayasaka’s the problem, right?”

‘Oh, I get it now. He doesn’t want to say it because he doesn’t want to put the blame on her.’
 

It turned out that Haruki had guessed correctly.

Souta turned pale, and then nodded reluctantly.

“She finished the sketch, and has already started coloring it, but… She said that there was still ‘something’ missing, and hasn’t made any progress since then to finish it.”
 

Haruki nodded frequently, as if this was all very familiar to him, while Yuu held his head.

“That always seems to happen when you’re making something, huh.”

“And what’re more, suggestions from other people don’t help at all. It’s something you just have to figure out for yourself….”

Yuu stated, speaking from experience. Souta smiling bitterly, and then continued.

“I tried asking her what she was stuck on, but even she didn’t seem to know how to respond. She started getting all philosophically, and saying things like, ‘What is love, anyway?’”

“Ughhh, this seriously isn’t good…”
 

As Yuu scratched the back of his head, Haruki immediately asked, “Why’s that?”

Souta seemed surprised by Haruki’s words, and turned to stare at him.

Even with two people staring him down, Haruki didn’t seem particularly fazed, and spoke absently,

“Look, it’s not like Hayasaka was saying ‘What is love?’ in a really philosophical way, like ‘What is the meaning of life?’ or anything. She just doesn’t really get it, that’s all.”

“….I-I still don’t understand. Can you say that one more time?”

“Mochita, you’re just thinking too hard. Listen, it basically means that Hayasaka’s never had any experience with dating anyone. That’s it.”
 

After he’d said that, it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

Putting it in Haruki’s words, that meant that Akari hadn’t had her first love yet, even since entering high school.

‘Well, it’s not like she’s completely oblivious. Everyone has at least some experience with love.’

While Yuu thought to himself quietly, Souta slowly spoke up.

“Come to think of it, Akarin was my first love….”

“Mochita, quit blushing when you’re the one saying that…. You’ll make me feel embarrassed too.”

“Like you’re one to talk when you can’t even face your first love,”

Haruki snickered at Yuu, making him grimace.
 

‘You’re the last person I want to hear that from,’

Yuu wanted to snap back, but since it’d just sound like he was picking a fight, he kept those words to himself.

Instead, he asked teasingly,

“Speaking of which… Haruki, how are things between you and Aida?”

“Same as usual? Or, well actually, she said she can’t walk home with me for a while.”
 

Due to how casually he’d said it, their initial reactions were delayed.

After lowly processing those words, brains sluggish from the heat, it finally clicked.

“….What? Wait, hold on a minute, doesn’t that mean she’s trying to distance herself from you?”

“Yeah, something’s definitely wrong here!”

Souta jumped up from his seat as well, and pointed at Haruki fervently.

However, Haruki only leaned forward on the desk, propping up his chin with the palm of his hand, and stared as if he was watching a variety TV show in his living room.

“Wow, you guys sure have some fiery reactions!”

“You’re the one that’s too cold, Haruki! Are you really fine with that? Did you ask her why?”

Haruki looked up at the ceiling before replying, as if it was too hard to look at Souta acting so worried like this was his problem.
 

“Hm? Well… She said something about being busy with the art contest.”

“So it’s not because of you or anything, then. That’s good.”

“Geez, don’t worry us like that.…”

Yuu also breathed a sigh of relief, but he came to realize that Haruki hadn’t answered the original question.

When he’d asked him earlier about how things were going between him and Miou, Haruki had dodged the question. Even though Yuu had intentionally avoided phrasing it more like, “Did anything happen with you and Aida yet?” Haruki hadn’t even flinched.
 

“Actually, Haruki and Aida aren’t even going out with each other, right?”

“Ah, I wanted to ask about that, too.”

As Souta took the opportunity to bring up this fact, it was turning into their usual two-on-one scheme.

However, Haruki showed no sign of giving in, and merely let out a long sigh.

He ignored Souta, who was leaning forward in anticipation, and threw a sharp look over at Yuu.
 

“And what would be the point in asking? If I told you that I was going out with Aida…. No, that’s not right. If I said that I liked anyone other than Natsuki, would you feel relieved? And then what?”
 

He felt like he’d just been punched right in the face.

Yuu was as a loss for words, and could only stare blankly back at Haruki.
 

‘He’s right. I wanted the reassurance.’

The numbness of his mind faded, and slowly started working again.

And then, the first thing that came to mind was the reality that he’d been desperately avoiding.
 

Even if Natsuki really did like Haruki, if Haruki liked someone else, then the worst-case scenario would be avoided.

Ever since she’d chosen him as her confession rehearsal partner, Yuu had always hoped for those terrible circumstances.

Moreover, he hadn’t even acknowledged those guilty feelings, instead choosing to keep them under lock and key, and all the while, acting like he was still on Natsuki’s side. It was completely pathetic.

‘In the end, it was probably just because I was jealous of Ayase and Haruki….’
 

“Hey, Yuu.”

He wasn’t sure how long he sat spacing out, but Souta’s voice pulled him back to reality.

Their eyes met, and Souta looked back at him with an expression of worry, but also a bit of relief.

“I don’t really get what’s going on, but aren’t you hungry?”

“Huh….?”
 

Haruki didn’t say anything at first, and nodded as he started gathering his things to leave.

“It feels like a hole could open up in my stomach from how empty it is. I haven’t eaten anything since last night.”

“Yeah, and you slept through the entire lunch break, too….”

As Souta laughed dryly, Haruki looked over at Yuu again.

His gaze wasn’t sharp at all, like it was before. Instead, the corner of his lips lifted up in a grin.
 

“Let’s go get ramen!”

“….Let’s go to that newly-opened place. It’s behind the supermarket.”

Yuu rose from his seat as well, sharing info on his new favorite place.

“Huh? You already found a new one? You sure do love ramen a lot, Yuu.”
 

After that, things went back to how they usually were.

As the three of them laughed over stupid things, they left the classroom.

‘….No, we can’t just go pretend like nothing happened.’
 

“And what would be the point in asking? If I told you that I was going out with Aida…. No, that’s not right. If I said that I liked anyone other than Natsuki, you’ll feel relieved, right? And then what?”

 

While he didn’t know Haruki’s true intentions, for Yuu, those questions had meaning.

As soon he figured out what the problem was exactly, he’d be able to find his answer, as well.
 

When they passed through the school gates, Yuu whispered just loud enough for Haruki to hear,

“You helped me realize something. Thanks.”

Haruki looked like he was caught off guard for a moment before he grinned and wrapped an arm around Yuu’s shoulders.

“If you get dumped, let’s go out for ramen again.”

“H-Hey, don’t jinx it!”
 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
 

As Yuu looked around at the roster surrounding the brand-new table, his expression turned bitter.

Sitting to his right was Souta with his wonton ramen; Haruki sat directly in front of him with shio and green onions; and right next to him was Koyuki with a chashu ramen. Everyone gave their compliments to the chef, and showed off their hearty eating in spite of the summer heat.
 

‘That’s right, the ramen’s great. It’s the best.’

Even Yuu’s shouyu ramen was so good that he already wanted seconds.

This place was a hit, no doubt about it.

‘But why is he here?’
 

He traced his memory back to about thirty minutes ago.

It had all started when Souta had recognized Koyuki from afar in front of the train station and run up to him. Waving excitedly as he ran up to his classmate, he was just like a puppy.
 

“Yukki! Wait no, I mean, Ayase-kun! Are you free right now? Wanna come eat ramen with us?”

“Ahaha, you can call me Yukki if you’d like. Ramen? Sure, I’d love to.”

Souta had never called Koyuki by nickname before.

But in spite of that, he spoke familiarly to him, and Koyuki also responded in kind.

‘Wh-What just happened….?’
 

As Yuu stood there dumbfounded, Haruki had patted him smartly on the back and said to him,

“Well isn’t this a great opportunity? To have a nice man-to-man talk, that is.”

Just how much did he even know?

Yuu was starting to feel scared that Haruki knew everything that went on with him.

Although he was just about to ask about it, it would be a pain if the tables turned against him, so he decided to stay quiet. They took his silence as him having no objections, and in the end, Koyuki wound up joining them for ramen.
 

‘….Mochita really gets along well with Ayase, huh.’

After he’d finished eating his noodles, Souta started bombarding Koyuki with questions, as if he’d been waiting for this chance to interrogate him.

The main topic of discussion was Koyuki’s recent transformation.
 

“Wow! So you got your hair done at a salon in Aoyama that you read about in a magazine?”

“I thought I’d start changing how I looked, first.”

“That’s true. It really depends on which hairdresser you go to. You look really good with that style.”

Koyuki seemed embarrassed about being complimented in person, and shrunk back, casting his gaze downwards.

“I’m still the same on the inside, though, so change can only go so far….”

As Koyuki laughed weakly, Souta tried to encourage him.

“Yukki, you should have more self-confidence. It’s amazing that you can just transform yourself like this, you know!”

Koyuki seemed surprised at first, but he smiled back shyly when he seemed to realize Souta was only telling him this out of good intentions.
 

‘Hearing him talk about it like this, it doesn’t seem like he changed himself just to show off….’

It was true that while his appearance was different now, Yuu couldn’t sense any of that brazen air that Koyuki had shown with his provocative behavior back at the park that day.
 

‘….Well, it seems like he can look people in the eye when he talks now.’

Before, he would always hide his eyes behind his long bangs, and had a habit of looking down a lot. The only time he used to look people in the eye was when he was talking about manga.
 

“Whatever the reason is, it’s amazing he could completely transform himself like that,”

Right before summer vacation, Souta had said this while looking out at the window at Koyuki, squinting his eyes against the bright sunlight.

Yuu had told his childhood friend, “I personally think that you’re fine the way you are, Mochita,” but he knew that unless he acknowledged those words himself, they had no meaning.

‘Want to change, huh….’
 

Before he knew it, there was a deafening silence.

Just as he was starting to feel suspicious, he noticed that all three of them were staring at him.
 

“….Wh-What is it? What’s wrong?”

“Well, I mean, you just said, ‘I want to change,’ didn’t you?”

Souta said this with a puzzled look, frozen in place.

He glanced over at Haruki, and he also nodded.

“Yeah, you did.”
 

‘Oh, crap….!’

He’d meant to say that in his head, but he’d accidentally said it out loud.

Unable to think of a good way to play it off as a joke, Yuu awkwardly averted his gaze.
 

“So even you can feel that way, Setoguchi-kun?”

The one who broke the silence was neither Souta nor Haruki, but Koyuki.

He sounded surprised, like what Yuu had said was something unusual.

“….Is there a problem with that?”

“Ah, I didn’t mean it in a bad way…. From how I see it, you’re very lucky to have what you do now.”
 

His unique way of wording reminded him of Haruki.

However, unlike with Haruki, Yuu felt some hostility from Koyuki’s statement.

‘He does seem like a self-conscious person, after all….’

It would prove that what had happened at the park hadn’t entirely been caused by Yuu’s misunderstanding.
 

Would he ignore this? Or accept the challenge?

Hesitating only for a moment, Yuu took some chashu from his own bowl and put it in Koyuki’s.

“Thanks. I’ll share some chashu with you for that.”

“Ah, no fair! I want some too!”

As Souta cried out, Haruki played along, as well.

“Don’t worry, it’s not hard to win Yuu over with flattery.”
 

As the other two starting stirring up a commotion, Koyuki blinked, and then let out a breathy laugh.

“You really are lucky to have them, Setoguchi-kun.”

His wording was still vague, but judging by his lonely expression, Yuu could guess what he meant.

Yuu wasn’t sure how to respond to this topic, but he decided to just say what he thought.

“Most of the time, they’re just really annoying.”

“….Even so, I envy you.”
 

Koyuki’s reply made Yuu’s impression of him change slightly.

‘Does he really mean that….?’

He still saw him as his love rival, but there seemed to be more to him than just that. However, considering his provoking demeanor and sarcasm from before, it was possible that he was only saying what came to mind.
 

Of course, he could also be trying to start something again, like with what he’d said before.

Although Koyuki had used the word “compete” then, he might’ve also been trying to make Yuu realize what position he was in. That was, assuming he thought of Natsuki as more than a childhood friend.
 

It was then that it came to him.

‘But why would Ayase go out of his way to make sure I knew my position?’

It would obviously be more advantageous to be up against fewer opponents.

While the competition was still watching passively, he could’ve just approached Natsuki himself, increasing his chances of going out with her.

‘It’s almost as if Ayase was purposely…’
 

“Here’s my chance!”

Too busy with his thoughts, Yuu didn’t notice someone sneaking up beside him until the last moment.

In a cheerful voice, Souta announced his assault and snatched a thick piece of chashu from Yuu’s bowl.

“I’ll be taking this, thanks!”

“Mochita… don’t make so much noise when we’re eating!”

“You’re plenty noisy yourself, Yuu.”

Oddly enough, their lines flowed perfectly together, as if this was a skit they’d rehearsed beforehand.

Even Koyuki commented, “You’re all in perfect sync,” and burst out laughing.
 

‘Things are never serious when I’m with these guys….’

Yuu let out a loud sigh, and faced his bowl to begin eating the rest of the noodles. If he didn’t, he’d probably get taken advantage of again for letting his guard down.
 

Just as Koyuki said, Yuu was “lucky” to have such good friends.

That was why, for now, Yuu decided to gulp down his doubts about Koyuki together with the thick, flavorful soup.

He wanted to enjoy this noisy, but friendly atmosphere while it lasted.
 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
 

However, it didn’t last long.

As soon as they’d finished eating and walked outside the ramen shop, Koyuki called out to him in a serious tone.
 

“Setoguchi-kun, could I have a bit more of your time?”
 

Yuu was surprised at being suddenly nominated, and as expected, Souta shot his hand in the air, shouting, “Count me in, too!”

But Koyuki could only knit his brows apologetically.

“I’m sorry, I’d like it to be just the two of us, if possible…”

‘Don’t say it in such a misleading way!’

As if he’d heard Yuu’s thoughts, Haruki gave a toothy grin.

“Well if you put it like that, there’s no way he could turn you down.”

Any opinion that Yuu had on the matter was promptly ignored. Haruki already had Souta, who seemed like he still wanted to talk to Koyuki, caught by the nape of his neck, and he left while waving with his free hand.
 

Being the only only left behind, Yuu looked up at the sky with a feeling of incredible fatigue.

The sun had already set a while ago, and the moon gave off a soft light.

‘At this point, I can’t help but feel like I have some kind of obligation to fulfill….’

Maybe it was like a game where he had to clear this event to reach the ending.

As he thought of these things that were somewhere between being serious and joking around, Yuu nodded reluctantly.
 

Koyuki let out a soft sigh.

“Do you mind if we go somewhere else?”

He said, and started walking off.

Just as he was about to ask how far they were going, Koyuki stopped in the middle of a nearby parking lot.

‘I guess he wants to talk about something that he doesn’t want other people overhearing.’

The back side of the station was currently under construction, with only a supermarket nearby.

The warm wind carried the sounds of the lively voices advertising the limited time sale.
 

“So what did you want to talk about?”

“Do you feel like competing now?”

They asked each other at almost the exact same time.

Having been suddenly cut off by Koyuki’s question, he felt pretty annoyed.
 

“Uh, what?”

Although Yuu sounded confused, Koyuki continued without flinching.

“I’m prepared even if it ends up being drawn-out for a long time.”

“Wait, just hold on a minute….”
 

Knowing that it would be pointless to ask what he was talking about, Yuu closed his mouth.

It wasn’t that he didn’t understand what was going on, just that everything was coming so fast.

Although he knew it’d make him seem embarrassed, Yuu let out a deep sigh. He knew that he’d been purposely avoiding Koyuki until now, so he couldn’t exactly blame him for this confrontation.

‘Since it’s come to this, I guess I’ve got no choice but to step into the ring he’s set up.’
 

“….You mentioned ‘competing’ the other day too, but it’s not like you’ve confessed, right?”

“I haven’t.”

Koyuki didn’t seem fazed that Yuu had guessed correctly, and simply smiled.

On the other hand, Yuu was surprised at how cheerful he was being.

“Is that all you have to say?”

“Yes.”

He answered, his reply just as blunt as before.
 

Maybe this was another way of challenging him.

He imagined that if he didn’t go along with it right now, he would only be called out like this again another day.

‘This is so annoying!’

Although he complained about it in his head, Yuu still decided to boldly accept his challenge.
 

“….Alright, assuming for a moment that I do have romantic feelings for Natsuki, let me ask you something. Back when we met at the park during summer vacation, if I had confessed to Natsuki then, what would you have done?”

Koyuki’s smile faded upon hearing Yuu’s question.

However, his smile soon returned, widening more as he spoke.

“I would have challenged to you to a contest, fair and square.”
 

Hearing Koyuki’s answer, Yuu frowned, thinking, “I knew he’d say that.”

Koyuki had purposely challenged Yuu in front of Natsuki so that his feelings would be dragged out in the open.

He’d expected as much, but his reasons for doing so were still unclear.

“….What are you up to? Increasing your number of rivals, and lowering your chances of success, just what are you planning?”

“I already told you. I just want to have a fair contest.”

This time, Koyuki’s smile vanished for good.

Yuu could feel a challenging spirit emitting not just his words, but his entire body.
 

As Yuu hesitated with how he should react, Koyuki continued.

“That was my way of declaring war, you could say. Just like how I’m standing before you now.”

“….Why does it have to be me….”

Had Koyuki been able to hear his hoarse voice?

He’d said it mostly to himself, barely above a whisper.
 

‘I’m not the one who Natsuki likes…’

If he told the truth, he probably wouldn’t be forced to stand in the ring anymore.

With that in mind, the words lingered on his lips, ready to be said aloud.

While part of him wanted to be free of this, betraying Natsuki’s feelings like that was an entirely different story. In the first place, no matter who Natsuki liked, it was likely that Koyuki’s attitude wouldn’t change.
 

As if to shake off those thoughts, Yuu pushed his bangs aside.

With his vision now slightly clearer, he looked straight at Koyuki.

“Tell me, do you honestly like Natsuki?”

“….Setoguchi-kun, do you know what my first name is?”

“What?”
 

Yuu blinked in surprise, both at his question being answered with a question, and at the sudden change of topic.

However, Koyuki simply continued on with a serious expression on his face.

“It’s written with the kanji for love and snow, Koyuki. It sounds like a girl’s name, right? And since I looked like one, too, everyone would always jokingly call me ‘Yuki-chan’….”

“But Natsuki would call you ‘Koyuki-kun,’ right?”

Yuu added without thinking, and as if holding back his happiness, Koyuki nodded “yes” in response.
 

‘So that’s how it is….’

To Koyuki, Natsuki was the person who had given him a reason to change.

It wasn’t just that she had given him the courage to change, but also the fact that he wanted to change for her sake especially.
 

‘In that case, what’s the point in provoking me like this?’

As his doubts increased, Yuu looked over at Koyuki again.

“You know, you seem really eager to make this into a contest, but how’re you going to do that, huh? Whoever she says yes to wins? Hah, how stupid is that?”

Getting more and more heated up by the second, Yuu exploded right then and there.

“What’s the point in just going up and confessing? Natsuki can only choose one of us, and there’s a chance she won’t even choose either of us. What then? Comfort each other after being rejected?”
 

He’d gotten more worked up than expected, and by the time he finished talking, his breath was ragged.

Koyuki remained silent, and stared intently back at him.

Unable to read the emotions in his eyes, Yuu could only continue this one-sided rant.

“Put yourself in Natsuki’s shoes for a minute, would you? If both her friend and her childhood friend confess at the same time, don’t you think she’ll feel too pressured to turn down either of them?”
 

“Setoguchi-kun, you’re assuming that you’ll be rejected, then.”

When Koyuki finally spoke, a wry smile emerged on his face.

‘I’m the one who wants to laugh here.’

With the way he’d worded it, it was like Koyuki claimed he would bring different results. Whether it was because he was truly confident in succeeding, or was just trying to provoke him, either way, it was meaningless.

‘In the end, you don’t get what’s really important.’

While feeling a strange urge to cry, Yuu laughed cynically.
 

“I’d prefer that over causing a misunderstanding. You just want to force your feelings onto Natsuki, don’t you? No matter how much you like someone, there’s something wrong with forcing them to accept your feelings.”

“….I simply like Enomoto-san as she is, that’s all. Even if she doesn’t return my feelings, I would still continue to like her.”
 

He couldn’t understand at all.

Truthfully, Yuu wanted to ask, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” but Koyuki still smiled quietly.

He kept waiting for several more seconds, but Koyuki didn’t elaborate on his answer any further.
 

‘Was I supposed to say my last words and then leave…?’

Having lost the timing to end the conversation, he heard his smartphone vibrate from inside his bag.

With it being this late, it was probably Hina. She was probably texting him about what to do for dinner.

‘She gets annoying if I answer her texts too late…. Worst case scenario, she’ll start calling me, too.’

It was the perfect opportunity to get him out of this situation.

Koyuki seemed to sense Yuu’s intentions, and looked at him like he wanted to say something.
 

“Oh, come on! Just say it already!”

Losing control of his voice, Koyuki said something unbelievable.

“I’ve been waiting for you to give me an answer.”

“Wait, what?”
 

He took back what he’d said earlier.

It wasn’t just that things were moving too fast for him to keep up; he was honestly lost here.

Suddenly overcome by fatigue, Yuu let out a sigh.

‘It’ll be a pain if I don’t settle this once and for all…..’

He had to get this over with, and make his intentions clear.

From the very beginning, Koyuki probably wanted to know what Yuu’s feelings were.
 

“It doesn’t matter what you say. I won’t be confessing to Natsuki.”

Koyuki gasped, surprised, and then made a defeated face.

Yuu felt lightheaded seeing that reaction.

‘So he really was planning on convincing me to confess to her together….’
 

Without bothering to ask for his reasoning at this point, Yuu promptly turned away from him.

“See you tomorrow at school.”

Forcing those words out from his sore throat, he left the parking lot.

As he walked away, he didn’t hear any reply, nor any voice calling him back.
 

‘He’s changed… or rather, he doesn’t feel like he has to hide his intentions anymore, probably.’

Even if he was wrong, this wasn’t something he could tell Souta about, Yuu thought with a bitter laugh, and quickened his pace.

‘And with this, summer really is over now….’

 

What kind of face was Koyuki making as he was left behind there?

All he could see was the glowing moon in the darkened sky.


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