For another hour or so, I continued my gym experience with Ichinose and Amikura.
While we were working out, Amikura said she would stay behind for a bit, perhaps to keep up with the gym mood, so Ichinose and I went ahead and changed our clothes. We would meet up with each other at the reception desk.
While waiting for Ichinose, I got a pamphlet for the gym so that I could consider joining officially. It's a pain to spend a few thousand more points every month, but it's not a bad idea to work up a sweat once in a while.
I was reminded again that my body had declined to the point where I couldn’t even compare it to when I first entered the school, since I’d hardly done any exercise voluntarily for the past two years. I’d come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to raise the level of my physical abilities to some extent, if not to restore them to their previous state.
After changing, Ichinose and I left the gym and headed back to the mall.
“Did you get a brochure?”
“Yes, I've been considering going to the gym more seriously.”
“Oh, well, maybe we'll see each other more often then…”
“What should we do now?”
The meeting shouldn't end at the gym alone, so I asked her what happens after that.
“I often go to bookstores. I also tend to shop at grocery stores. But I'm a little more tired than usual today, so I might want to take a break. Can we sit down on a bench or something?”
Even from the usual workout routine, the environment you are in may affect your physical exhaustion. It’s important to choose when to take a rest instead of forcing yourself to follow a routine.
“Are you sure you don't want to go to a café?”
“Yeah. You know, it kind of stands out.”
It seems she made the suggestion with me in mind.
“I appreciate the sentiment, but don't worry about it. We could go to a café.”
“Yeah? If… You are fine with it, I'm fine with it.”
If you try to avoid being seen, it only makes you look more suspicious. Having a cup of tea with the opposite sex in a café is just a common part of everyday life. It is only because you are conscious of it that it may seem special.
We went to the café, trying to blend with the environment. We chose a small café on the second floor instead of a café on the first floor, where people tend to gather.
We both bought a drink of our choice and took our seats at a table.
“May I ask you a question?”
“A question? Ask me anything.”
“...Does the reason why you invited me here today have anything to do with my resignation from the student council?”
Ichinose asked me hesitantly, but she seemed to be sure of it.
I guess she knew that when I suddenly asked her out on a holiday.
“I'd be lying if I said it had nothing to do with it.”
“Right. I'm glad you answered honestly.”
Ichinose's mouth relaxed as she said this, though her gaze was still averted from me.
“I was surprised that you resigned from the student council. I thought there was a good chance you would win the student council election against Horikita.”
Ichinose's personality and ability contributed to the student council early in the first year. Horikita, on the other hand, entered the student council one term later than Ichinose. With her older brother as the previous student council president and her current momentum in Class B, I thought the two would've been evenly matched.
“If there had been a student council election, who would Ayanokōji-kun have supported? …Sorry, that was a foolish question.”
Like it or not, Horikita was currently my classmate. For the betterment of the class, it would be more beneficial to have one of my classmates as the student council president.
“I don't feel the need to support Horikita just because we are classmates. If Nagumo said he would support Horikita, I still would have supported you.”
This was also an honest response, but Ichinose must have taken it as flattery. She seemed to be more apologetic than happy.
“But if I had… I wouldn't have won. I'm no match for Horikita-san.”
It seemed that Ichinose didn’t feel she could win against Horikita even before the fight. But that was because she was defeated not only in ability but also in spirit.
“It’s probably a good thing that I quit after all, because it saved me from being humiliated.”
“You don't know the outcome until you actually try.”
“I'm glad you said that. Thank you.”
“But you decided to quit the student council before that, right?”
“Is it possible that that incident on the school trip had something to do with it? If that's the case...”
“That's not true.”
Ichinose interrupted my words and denied them with a strong tone of voice.
The paper cup in her hand was bent with so much force that it seemed to crumble.
“I was already thinking of quitting before that. I'm not suited for the student council. I'm not good enough, I'm not talented, and above all... I have a past that I can't erase.”
Ichinose's profile reminded me of that night on the school trip for a moment, but she didn't start crying like that time. She had no intention of continuing to be weak.
“But you know..., I haven't given up on everything. I know some people in the class are worried that I might have given up on getting into Class A, but that's not true.”
“So you're going to keep trying to get to Class A?”
“You told me, 'If you don't have the courage to take the first step, I can lend you a hand.’ Hearing those words, I was able to make up my mind on that night of the school trip.”
Ichinose, who had made eye contact with me, laughed.
“I can still fight. But I thought that it was not a battle I could win with the way I am now. I thought that continuing to be a member of the student council would be either a luxury or be an unnecessary burden.”
Is that the reason why you quit the student council?
“Oh… but then the reason I quit the student council might be because of the incident on the school trip after all. I guess that's what I'm saying.”
Ichinose chuckled with a light joke and squinted her eyes.
“I’m going to tell everyone in my class at the beginning of next week what I just told you, Ayanokōji-kun. Regarding what I was thinking before I quit the student council. It's not good if it's misunderstood.”
If her peers continue to probe her without knowing her true intentions, it will make fighting with Ryūen's class more difficult. Everything Ichinose has said here can be regarded as her true feelings.
It was a great advantage that Ichinose was able to resolve herself over time from the unstable stage leading up to the school trip. Although she lost her position in the student council, which was one of her weapons, what she gained was greater than that.
I think it was safe to say that she had temporarily gotten out of the situation that I had feared. I will now be able to give a good report to Kanzaki.
“Yes. This is totally unrelated, but I have a question. Can I ask you something?”
“Sure. What is it?”
I'd like to do a little more investigating for Watanabe's sake.
“Do you know what type of guy Amikura likes?”
Ichinose, who had brought the cup to her mouth, froze. Her eyes, which had been avoiding mine just a few minutes ago, now stared directly into them and didn't let go. If anything, I was more struck by a feeling of wanting to run away.
“Why’d you ask me that?”
Her voice was the same. She didn’t seem to be angry. But I don't know why. The atmosphere surrounding Ichinose, which was supposed to be the same as before, was now different compared to a few seconds ago.
“Well… I don't know what to say when you ask me why, I'm just somewhat curious about it.”
“Somewhat? Why do you want to know Mako-chan’s type? It's not like you in any way.”
If she said so, then that's all there is to it, but the heavy air was getting heavier and heavier.
I didn’t know what to say. However, I couldn’t easily hint at Watanabe's existence here.
“I thought that Amikura was cute and quite popular.”
“Yes, I know Mako-chan is cute. So? Is she your type?”
“I don't think so.”
“This isn’t like you, Ayanokōji-kun?”
It seems I’m not the type to ask such a question, or so I was told. She also didn’t seem to look away at all.
“No..., well, maybe...”
Where had the calm atmosphere I had experienced gone? Ichinose, with the cup still in her mouth, was staring me down with the same tense expression.
“Why do you want to know Mako-chan's type?”
“No particular reason...”
“Of course not. I'm asking you this because...”
I gave up on making eye contact with her and tried to talk about the café clerk instead.
“Oh, it looks like they just got an order or they're making a drink with chocolate.”
“Did you meet Mako-chan somewhere else before you met me?”
Ichinose's pursuit continued without regard to the fact that my gaze had wandered off.
“What do you mean by…?”
“When you ran into each other at the gym today, your gazes met in a strange way. Isn’t it called conversing with your eyes?”
When she was this convinced, denial would only make things worse.
“I did. Because I'm... always watching and thinking about you, all the time...”
At this point, Ichinose finally broke her gaze. She must have realized that she had said an embarrassing line without hesitation.
“Here’s my guess. Mako-chan and the rest of the class must have been worried when they heard the rumor that I was quitting the student council. That's why they asked you for advice. Did they ask you to check on me if you could?”
As if to prove that she had recovered mentally, Ichinose showed that she had a good grasp of the situation. She was aware of her surroundings.
I'd like to applaud her, but I'll refrain from doing so.
“But I don't get it… why did you want to know what Mako-chan’s type is?”
Even if we can deduce that I had a discussion with Amikura some time ago, it’s unreasonable to assume that it led to me asking what type of the opposite sex she liked.
“Why do you think that is?”
I'll ask her if she can think and guess. Rather, this was the only way left to conceal Watanabe's existence. It would be better to work backward from Ichinose's intuition and make up a suitable answer.
“It’s not because you’re interested in Mako-chan, is it? Yeah, I don't like the sound of that, so I won't think about it.”
She had made it an option but stopped as if she was cutting herself off from both sides of the issue.
I mean... that's a very bold thing to say, even in a private place.
She still liked me, and she didn’t even try to hide her intention.
Or is she not thinking deeply about this kind of thing and is mumbling unconsciously?
I couldn’t see Ichinose's true intention even though I observed her.
“If it’s other than that, it could be that there is a boy who likes… Mako-chan, and he asked you to find out. Yeah, that would be a good fit. I guess he thought that I would know.”
When she connects the dots on so many things, it gets a little scary.
“I mean, a man who knows the relationship between Mako-chan and I. And a student in my class who has contact with you...”
“Okay. I'll be honest with you.”
I'm sorry, Watanabe. I don't think your little deception is going to work on someone as sharp as Ichinose. Even if I hadn't stopped her here, she would have given me the name in a second.
“I was asked to find out if there was someone who Amikura liked. But I can't tell you who that boy is. I thought it was a bit one-sided”.
I wasn’t saying that indirectly finding out who the opposite sex likes is a bad thing. However, whether it’s a good thing or not from Amikura's point of view is a different question.
“I'm sorry. Let’s forget about this.”
“No. It’s natural that everyone wants to know about the person they like and I know how much courage it takes to ask directly. Mako-chan is a very nice girl. I honestly don't know what her type is. I've never asked her. But from what I've heard from her, I don't think she likes anyone at this school.”
The 'at' part implies that her type was not at this school.
This was related to what Amikura said earlier.
“Seems she had a classmate she liked in middle school. I don't think she was dating him, but she had been thinking about it for a long time. I don't think she has fallen in love with anyone else yet.”
This is a situation that Watanabe probably never envisioned from Amikura's love life. It may be a surprisingly high hurdle to earn the affection of a person who has had an unrequited love ever since middle school.
Still, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. If you can establish a close relationship now or in the next year, you may still have a good chance.
“This is all I can tell you, but was it useful?”
“That was plenty. Thank you, Ichinose.”
“Ayanokōji-kun, Watanabe-kun has come to depend on you a lot, hasn't he?”
“I never said anything about Watanabe.”
“Oh, I see. Sorry, sorry.”
The biggest reason for my defeat was that I had too few social relations other than him, rather than the fact that I mentioned his name in the morning.