Chapter 10: That's why, Hikigaya Hachiman said.
The last spring of high school had begun. The cherry blossoms that were visible from the windows of my class above had yet to reach peak bloom, but the petals themselves were progressing magnificently regardless.
There's nothing more important than the initial head start of spring, whether it was in the stone world or the normal world. In that respect, I had the worst start. To get straight to the point, I had the worst class assignment.
I had no issues with being separated from acquaintances and friends. Wasting time in class and being the last one to find a group during class excursions were things I was used to. It's when I was assigned to the same class with people I wasn't particularly close to that was painful.
Hayama Hayato and Ebina Hina, two individuals among my limited acquaintances, were the two worst rolls I could get in my gacha result, and now I could safely explode and die. Tobe would be a better alternative at this point...
Whenever we crossed each other, the both of them would engage in brief and harmless conversations with me. Given that these two were attention magnets, the curious stares I'd get from the people around us were awful. I was never one for small talk, so the stress shortened my life span at the rate of mach speed. Because of that, I tried to keep my time in class to as close as zero and would bolt from class the moment the bell for the end of the school day sounded.
The flower beds in the courtyard that could be viewed from above in the suspended hallway that led to the special building announced the onset of spring. But regardless of a change in seasons or a change in school years, debts from the past wouldn't disappear; case in point, the unreasonable joint prom still had some remaining tabs left to cover.
Both Yukinoshita and I were still using the clubroom that had long served its purpose. In other words, we were wrapping up the remaining business of the joint prom.
As a parting gift, Hiratsuka-sensei made prior arrangements with the student council to let us have temporary access to the Service Club's room. It was a little spacious for just the two of us, but the overflowing work made up for the extra space as if filling in a blank canvas.
We signed off invoices, processed mountains of receipts, and were buried in a valley of reports. But we went through them one by one with careful precision. Yukinoshita would normally take care of this level of workload immediately, but her speed was sluggish. But perhaps, she just wanted to soak in the moment for a little longer, just like me.
“Why don't we take a break?”
After stopping, she tapped on my shoulder and began brewing black tea. My teacup, which had been left untouched for some time, and her stylish one were filled with the vivid colored tea. Although the remaining mug was cleaned and free from any dust, steam could not be seen rising from it.
I took the teacup she offered and sipped. She similarly took a mouthful and let out a satisfied exhale.
“At the rate we're proceeding, we should be all done by tomorrow.”
“Yeah, seems like it.”
“After that, we'll need to clean the room up.” Yukinoshita looked over her belongings. She didn't have that many to speak of, but her tea set did look somewhat heavy.
“I'll help you carry your things, since I don't have much.”
“Really? I'll take you up on your offer, then.” She smiled, and continued. “While you're at it, would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow? My mother insisted... I must say, she seems rather fond of you.”
“Any chance you could refuse for me...?”
“What makes you think I can do that?”
“Tomorrow is... uh, you know.” I answered, having a light-bulb moment.
She tilted her head. “If you're referring to Komachi-san, she'll be busy choosing a club to join, so she'll be staying late. Totsuka-kun has his hands full with the tennis club, and Zai... Zaitsu-kun? I'm sure Zaitsu-kun can wait for another time, right?”
She fired off her words nonchalantly, but it was frightening how she had a complete grasp of the schedules of everyone around me. Every excuse I could think of was shut down, and I could only eke out a stutter. She placed her elbows on the desk and looked at my face.
“Who else is there? Hayama-kun?”
“Nope, not a chance in hell, seriously.”
Why did I have to spend time after school with that guy? I made sure to voice my objection for that point alone, all other things notwithstanding. She followed with a triumphant smile. “In other words, you don't have any plans. I'm glad to hear that.”
I had no words of rebuttal in the face of such a happy smile. I certainly had the physical means to escape tomorrow. But there was no point, because she would just confront me on another day. By no means was I against going out to eat with Yukinoshita Yukino herself. As a matter of fact, I could totally go on an enthusiastic tangent and invite her out to eat at a naritake ramen shop somewhere. But it's a different story when it's about her family. I did what I could to resolve any external conflicts with them, but internally, there's still some things left untouched.
What do I do? What do I do? Frantic thoughts filled my head, and my eyes fled to the door. And then, a knock came.
“Come in.” I immediately answered the stroke of good luck and the door flung open.
“Hello! I'm here to apply to the club!”
My little sister Hikigaya Komachi barged into the room in boisterous fashion in her newly fitted uniform.
“Komachi-san, welcome. I knew the uniform would look wonderful on you.”
“Yukino-san! Thank you so much!”
Komachi pounced on Yukinoshita, and though initially perplexed, accepted her hug. I waited for the moment to interrupt them.
“Komachi, there isn't any club activities here. We're not looking for new members, and there's nothing for us to do.”
“True... We're really only here as an excuse to occupy the room.”
“Whoa, that's pretty bad. But no problem. Because...”
Komachi turned back to the entrance, and standing near the door was Isshiki. She was breathing heavily while supporting herself against the door with her hand.
“Why the heck are you so fast, Rice-chan...? Makes no sense...”
“Wait, Rice-chan...? Is that some kind of nickname? I mean, she certainly is the very epitome of the Japanese spirit, but...”
In other words, Komachi who had the title of being the sister of the world attained another title, the Japanese spirit, and was now effectively a two-title holder? Or so I thought, but seeing these two together had me suspicious. Did these two ever meet before? I wondered, and Yukinoshita raised a similar doubt.
“Isshiki-san, too...? Do you two need something?”
Yukinoshita, still held by Komachi, had a puzzled look. Isshiki took a deep breath and slowly closed the door. She walked up to us and presented a single slip of paper. The paper was filled with details on the establishment of a club along with the words “Service Club” on it. Furthermore, the club president column had “Hikigaya Komachi” written in. Below were Yukinoshita's name and mine. The required details were all filled along with the stamp of approval from the student council.
“As you can see, starting today, this room will now serve as the base of operations for the Service Club.”
Both Yukinoshita and I blurted out a confused response. Komachi grinned. “With this, the problem's solved! Let's begin our club activities!”
“Except it isn't...”
This was just forgery, wasn't it? A crime, right? You're guilty, right?
“What activities do you mean...? There's nothing for us to do...” Yukinoshita said, baffled.
Komachi and Isshiki exchanged looks. Then, Isshiki shrugged and sighed. “We'll have one soon.”
The two answered my immediate question with an unpleasant smile.
You two sure are friendly... The little sister and underclassman combo made them look like they were the strongest.
As their onii-chan-senpai, I was happy to see them getting along so well. Well, I should be, but...these two were too crafty for their own good. On one hand, Komachi was shallow, but she was a real schemer. On the other, Isshiki was shrewd and scummy. Putting these two together was just asking for trouble... Not good, this was only making me more anxious. What were these two planning to do...?
But that concern was answered with the light knocks from a visitor at the door.
Yukinoshita's dubious voice was answered from beyond the door.
The voice sounded somewhat high-pitched, likely due to nervousness. The door slowly slid open, and the girl slipped through the small opening of the door, as if she didn't want anyone to see her.
She wore her uniform loosely, and her hair was peach-colored. In taking a step into the room, the hair bun on her head shook.
Yuigahama Yui greeted us like she always did with an awkward smile while lifting her hand. Upon seeing her, Yukinoshita noisily rose from her seat. Her eyes misted over and looked like she was going to cry from her swelling emotions. With a weeping, but loving tone, she called to her.
“Yuigahama-san... You came...”
“Ehehe... I did...” Yuigahama placed her hand on her head while rubbing her hair bun. By just having her there, it felt like the room was filled with a missing piece. Feeling glad from the bottom of my heart, I drank my tea wondering what I should say to her.
But in that instant, I saw it; the sight of Komachi giggling and Isshiki grinning, followed by Yuigahama's incoming glances...
In seeing their behavior, an uneasy feeling welled up inside. No, if I were to be more precise, I could feel something disturbing. It's time like these that my hunches were always on the mark.
“Umm... I'm not here for a request, but a consultation, you see?”
Yuigahama began and Yukinoshita nodded with a smile with enthusiastic eyes, looking to help with whatever she needed. In contrast to her lively eyes, mine continued to look deader and deader.
Eventually, Yuigahama breathed in and placed her hand to her chest.
“So, there's this person I like, and he has someone who's like a girlfriend, and she also happens to be my most important friend... But I want to keep getting along with the both of them from now on. What should I do?”
Yuigahama made a meaningful glance and I averted my gaze. But this time, my gaze met with Yukinoshita's. Her eyes had a chilling coldness to them. I looked around to escape eye contact and focused on the teacup in my hands. But that didn't serve as refuge for the surface of the tea bubbled.
“Let's hear what you have to say...” Yukinoshita smiled and pulled a nearby seat, the seat that had always been empty between the two of us.
“Please have a seat. It sounds like this will take some time.”
“Yeah, I think it will. It won't end today or tomorrow or the day after... I think it'll continue forever.”
Yuigahama looked directly at Yukinoshita with an honest smile. Yukinoshita had a momentary look of surprise, but immediately returned her smile.
“You're right... I'm sure it'll continue forever.”
And so, the empty mug was filled with amber colored tea. The room was enveloped from the warmth and aroma of the tea and the inclining sun bathed the interior through the window. And there, the sunny spot of spring was born. That warmth sent a chill up my spine and turned my face blue.
I see. So, this was what they called a blue spring. Again, I could acutely feel the onset of the new season.
I really had no choice but to say it.
—My youth romantic comedy is wrong as I expected