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Chapter 2: Ibuki's One Misfortunate Day 
Part 1 
This is a note of the events from 2 days prior to the Christmas date, on the morning of the 23rd. I was heading towards Keyaki Mall alone with a certain goal in mind. Swiftly heading over to a certain shop, I looked around for what I needed. 
"I've never taken the ones from here.........". 
Having looked up its reputation on the internet, as well as hearing it from the clerk, I chose about 2 of them. I put the items into a small paper bag and proceeded with the checkout. 
Amazed at the surprising expensiveness of each one of those items, I left the shop with the paper bag in hand and for now decided to head back to the dorm. All that's left is to stop by at the convenience store on the way back and buy some things and that'll be the completion of my goal. After that, I'll once again return to Keyaki Mall and watch a movie whose screening is about to end soon. 
That was my plan for this one day. However, due to contact from a certain person, that plan began to crumble. 
"How are you today, Ayanokouji-kun?". 
Even though it's a wide area, the school grounds is still a confined space. If I wander around like this I'm bound to encounter various students. Right before the exit of the mall, one girl called out to me. Carrying a cane, she walks slowly as she approaches me. 1st year Class A's Sakayanagi Arisu. She knows I'm from the White Room. And the daughter of this school's chairman. 
"You're going out this early? You're alone today, I see". 
Normally Sakayanagi has an entourage accompanying her around, but I could not see anyone. 
"I came here to play with Masumi-san, but I haven't met her yet". 
Sakayanagi notices the existence of the paper bag in my hands. 
"Are you in ill health?". 
"No, not at all. As you can see, I'm healthy". 
Lightly spreading out both my hands, I appealed to her that I'm alone through overaction. And on top of that, I put the small paper bag into my pocket. 
"I'm glad. If you wouldn't mind, would you like to play together with me?". 
She extends an unbelievably unappreciated proposal to me. I don't even need to consider my response. 
"I'll have to decline. You're an existence that stands out after all". 
If I were to be seen playing with Sakayanagi, it would unnecessarily cause an uproar. 
"Fufu. That's a shame". 
It's obvious. If she wanted to make my circumstances common knowledge, she should have taken action a long time ago. 
But even against Ryuuen, she did not let slip even a single fact about me. Judging from that, I could tell that Sakayanagi intends to take me on alone. 
"Then would that mean there's no problem if we have a small chat while standing around here?". 
"To chat while standing around like this, what happened?". 
"If I call him this he would get angry at me but Dragon Boy-san was searching for you, right? To be more precise, he was searching for the tactician who was manipulating the class from the shadows. What happened with that matter?". 
Right now, other than the parties involved, no one should yet know of the rooftop incident as well as its conclusion. However, it wouldn't be strange even if she managed to obtain a portion of that information. 
For instance--- 
"The students of Class C had a falling out, and it seems it's become a serious matter for them. Did you know?". 
That's right. The fact that Ryuuen and his group were injured in their fight against me. Since those facts are readily apparent, it's also easy to spout various speculations about them. On the surface, the story is that Class C had an internal dispute, Sakayanagi probably heard that from somewhere. 
"I did hear about that but I don't know the details of it". 
"It seems Dragon Boy-san had a quarrel with his underlings. However, it just didn't make sense to me and I had thought Ayanokouji-kun might have been involved in it". 
"Why am I involved there? That's because you're decided that this tactician is me, right? From my point of view, it's an unexpected incident. I had thought Class C had it together". 
"Class C has it together, huh?". 
"Whether it be via terror or dictatorship, they are together as one aren't they?". 
"I see, that might be the case indeed. It seems like Ayanokouji-kun isn't involved then. From what I can see, you aren't injured at all......". 
It seems she's thoroughly observing my expressions and gestures, but she won't be able to destroy me from there. 
"It seems an internal dispute might be the truth. It's just, I cannot explain his actions in being so interested in Class D". 
"There are quite a lot of talented students in Class D after all. In particular, Kouenji is one". 
"I see. Indeed if it's him, he seems like he would be a suitable opponent for Dragon Boy-san". 
As a result, Sakayanagi concluded thusly. 
"I suppose that is fine. Once the 3rd semester begins, I will be able to find out the truth of it all". 
"Can I change the topic?". 
Rather than subtly changing the topic, I brazenly changed it. 
"Yes, of course". 
And without even an objection, Sakayanagi accepted that. 
"I've been curious about that thing recently but a few days ago, it seemed like you were getting along with Ichinose. Leaving aside the matter of your own class, I didn't figure you for one to intermingle with other classes". 
I recalled Sakayanagi and Ichinose getting along and walking together from a while back. 
To go out of their way to spend the holidays together, it's something that wouldn't have been done if they weren't getting along with each other. 
"Fufu. Please stop with the jokes". 
Perhaps my remark was interesting to her, but Sakayanagi laughs. 
"She and I........aren't friends you know?". 
"And this means?". 
"On the other hand, she thinks Ayanokouji-kun and I are good friends though......". 
Saying that, she paused for a bit. 
"Since Class C seems to be obsessing over Class D, I became slightly jealous. To tide over my boredom, I was simply messing with Class B". 
It seems they were just opponents for her to kill boredom with, it seems. 
"More importantly, once we enter the 3rd semester, would you mind playing with me then?". 
"I'm sorry but I don't intend to. If you want to, then please go ahead and play with Horikita and the others". 
"She's not suitable enough to be my opponent, you know". 
"Then why not Ryuuen, or the senior students. I'd like you to ignore me". 
"That's an impossible task. Because without even a single day's delay, I want to fight against Ayanokouji-kun". 
Even though I told her I had no intention of going along with that, Sakayanagi did not back down. Even if I continue acting modest towards Sakayanagi, it probably wouldn't have any effect. As long as she knows about the White Room, she won't stop hounding me on that. 
"If I continued ignoring you, what will you do?". 
"I would't mind it even so that really fine I wonder? If Ayanokouji-kun won't become my opponent then that would mean someone else would have to be my opponent in your place. I won't be taking responsibility even if the Class B which is in a cooperative relationship with you right now, just so happens to crumble". 
"So that idle talk a while ago's going to be involved huh". 
It seems the meaning behind Sakayanagi approaching Ichinose is that she's begun her attack against Class B. Just how much of it is true? During my conversation with Sakayanagi, I felt a slight sense of fun. 
"Until you decide to be my opponent, in the meantime, I shall be playing with the people of Class B. A clean hole might open up, and Ayanokouji-kun and the others might be able to naturally rise up to a higher class". 
Telling only me about her invasion of the enemy. But even so, at this stage, it's better to not conclude that she's really going to be attacking them. It might just be a provocation, or her playing with words. But there's no mistaking that this is a chance. Because if Sakayanagi's eyes are directed away from me towards Ichinose, I might be able to avoid getting caught up in unnecessary conflict. 
"Can you really win against Ichinose and the others?". 
"And by this you mean?". 
"From the time of enrollment until the end of these 2 semesters, Class B's given off the impression of having steadily consolidated its power. On the other hand, Class A's been pulling its own legs. Even if you try to appeal to me that your capabilities are superior your credibility is suspect". 
"I see. So you think I can say anything I want as long as it's words alone, huh". 
Even though Sakayanagi calmly accepted that, she allowed me a slight peek into her feelings. 
Adding on to that, I will airdrop more fuel. 
"Recently, I've also come to realize your identity. The fact that you're the daughter of this school's chairman". 
"So that was the case. Through what circumstances did you come to learn of this?". 
Sakayanagi snaps. Because it was a topic that she could not help but snap at. 
"The circumstances don't matter. One thing has become clear. That is the fact that, at the very least, there should have been some influence from your father in regards to you being assigned to Class A. In other words, even if you would have been chosen based on your capabilities, there's no way to say for sure anymore. Even if you start boasting about defeating Ichinose, it's hard to believe that all of a sudden". 
The student known as Sakayanagi Arisu still has not had her capabilities confirmed to the point of being acknowledged by a third party. 
"Then how would you explain away the fact that I am in command of the majority in my class?". 
"Controlling the class? That doesn't speak anything about your capabilities. Even the Ryuuen and Ichinose who you consider inferior to you are doing the same thing. If we're talking about Class D too, Hirata's the same. If we're talking about methods of bringing everyone together, Hirata seems superior and that alone won't serve as proof of one's projected capabilities". 
Katsun! Letting her cane ring out like that once, Sakayanagi began to revise her approach from a different angle. 
"I suppose with you as my opponent, such words meant to trick children won't have any effect. I apologize for the rudeness". 
Saying that she apologizes once. 
"However, Ayanokouji-kun. I wonder if you too, aren't being a bit too arrogant. Aren't you just drunk on the fact that you happen to be the first success of the White Room?". 
Looking at it from Sakayanagi's perspective, I must have looked like that. 
I haven't thought of it until now, but even if I'm interpreted that way it's something that could't be helped. If one had to pick between two options of either being a success or a failure, then beyond the shadow of a doubt I would be classified as a successful human being. If that were not the case then that father would not be obsessing over me. 
"As expected, Ayanokouji-kun seems to be misunderstanding something. Aren't you thinking that the fact that you were 'behind the glass' is something remarkable? Indeed, the amount of knowledge you've accumulated ever since childhood is something out of the ordinary. It seems you're mostly hiding that fact in this school but I'm not doubting the excellency of your academic abilities as well as the excellency of your athletic abilities. However, that place is a facility that was prepared for 'have-nots'. People who are naturally born as geniuses have no need of such a place, it could also be said like that you know?". 
"That might be the case". 
I won't deny that. As a matter of fact, my father's conviction is indeed just that. That whether or not you have superior genetics does not matter. By having one undergo thorough education from the moment of their birth, from the amount of time allocated to sleep even to what you're allowed to eat. By regulating each and every single last one of them, a perfect human is sculpted. That this method is the only way to give rise to superior talent that will support Japan. My father believed in that. 
"Why do you bear such hostility against me?". 
"It's because by defeating Ayanokouji-kun, it will also be proof that people absolutely cannot win against natural born talent. That no matter how much effort one puts in, there is a gap that simply cannot be bridged. That is my creed". 
It means she does not doubt the fact that she herself is a genius. Perhaps she was searching for Sakayanagi, but from behind her, Kamuro slowly approached. 
"So you were here....hah. Hey, don't just abruptly move away from the promised meeting place. Your legs are bad, you know". 
Even though she had noticed me, Kamuro did not meet my gaze and only badmouthed Sakayanagi. 
"I do apologize. I arrived earlier and was merely talking a walk". 
"Then at least contact me once about it". 
Since Kamuro's met up with her, she won't carelessly let slip the topic regarding me. It seems Sakayanagi has absolutely no interest in making my capabilities common knowledge. Or more like, it seems more like she dislikes the thought of spreading my story around and having her prey be robbed away from her. 
"This might be abrupt, Masumi-san, but what do you think about Ichinose Honami-san?". 
"This really is abrupt.....". 
Having just met up with her, Kamuro seems to be slightly puzzled by this talk without any context to it. 
In particular, the fact that I was beside her would have been a contributing factor to making conversation hard on her. 
"The thing is, I was just talking with him regarding the strategy to conquer Ichinose-san". 
"Conquer....huh. Even if you ask me what I think......Ichinose is an honors student and she helps with troubles. A nice person. Something like that?". 
"That is correct. The part about her being an honors student should be obvious. She always seem to be at the top when it comes to tests, and she's properly brought her class together. What do you think, Ayanokouji-kun?". 
This time, she asks me. 
"I'm of the same opinion". 
I answered like that without delay. 
"Then, do you think it would be a simple task to defeat such an honors student like Ichinose-san, Masumi-san?". 
"Shouldn't it be difficult? The unity of Class B seems to be strong so it won't crumble from the outside. Methods like bribery won't work on Ichinose either. There's no other option but frontal attack but even if you say our class is also perfectly organized it's still suspicious". 
"Indeed at first glance, conquering Ichinose-san seems like a difficult task". 
"Are you saying that's not the case?". 
"Yes. The truth is that is not the case. Everybody has their weaknesses. And even that Ichinose-san has them. A decisive weak point". 
And saying that, Sakayanagi laughs. 
"The fact that she is an honors student is something the two of you also acknowledge and is undoubtedly the truth. However, aspects like taking care of problems and being a saint. Are those really coming from her true self? Don't you think there's a side of her that looks down on people deep inside her heart?". 
"I don't's the the majority of people, at least externally, adopt that sort of attitude. And though their mouths speak kind words, there's no telling what they may be thinking deep inside. But that is not a bad thing. It's obvious that anyone will act in their own self-interest. But, that Ichinose really might be an idiotic saint". 
Like Kamuro said, the majority of people have a secret side to them. 
Leaving aside whether or not it's a violent secret side like it is with Kushida, having a darker side should be natural. However, the student known as Ichinose Honami absolutey does not allow anyone to sense that. The fact that Ichinose's weak point has been grasped means, it's related to that? 
"You don't think so?". 
"No. She's a prim and proper person. To be more precise, without any falsehood at all, she's filled to the brim with virtue". 
"So that means she's a seriously idiotic saint, huh?". 
"That is correct. You are spot on". 
Sakayanagi answered her like that with a smile. 
"Then in that case, I wonder if Masumi-san and Ichinose-san happen to be similar?". 
"Huh? What's that mean? We're completely different, are you being sarcastic?". 
"That is not true. This may come as a surprise to you but Masumi-san and Ichinose-san are quite similar". 
Kamuro continued to deny exasperatedly that they were not similar yet Sakayanagi continued on. 
"You are similar. As for why, the problem with her and the problem with Masumi-san are the 'exact same' after all". 
"The problem is the same? Wait a minute. What does that mean?". 
Do you understand, Ayanokouji-kun? Her eyes are asking me that. Since there was no way for me to know, I lightly shook my head and denied it. 
"Do you not understand? It means your secret which I hold in my hands and the secret she's hiding deep down inside are the same. Of course, only the premise of it is the same and the results are completely different". 
Having that be explained in such detail to her, something should have clicked within Kamuro. 
"That Ichinose, did the same thing I did.......?". 
Not being able to believe it all of a sudden, Kamuro had a complicated expression on her face. 
"It doesn't seem to be that uncommon of an occurrence". 
"Did Ichinose tell you that herself? Do you have any basis for saying that?". 
The state in which Kamuro snapped like that was not normal. I had thought her to be more or less a rational student, but it seems she was unable to ignore that problem Ichinose is said to be carrying. 
"Naturally. She let me hear of it in detail. She had gently opened up her heart, which had been sealed shut underneath that hard shell of hers, to me. By use of cold reading". 
Now that's rather courteous of her to explain the details in that explanatory tone. 
Cold reading is a part of the art of conversation. Through the use of careful observation ability, it is a method to extract information from the target and grasp it. Strictly speaking, she had probably interlinked it with hot reading in order to approach Ichinose. 
"People, in order to make themselves look good, readily tell lies. They are such creatures. You and Ichinose-san are only the tip of the iceberg. Surely there are many more. People sure are interesting things. No matter how talented, they always readily make mistakes". 
Having said that, she returned her gaze to me and concluded thusly. 
"On top of that, there are also many such aspects that could be considered holes, but in any case I will be crushing the hints to conquering Ichinose-san. I will be thoroughly crushing Ichinose Honami-san. I expect you to take this as proof". 
It seems she wants me to show her that I can arrive at the truth on my own, but unfortunately for her I'm not interested. I'd like Sakayanagi to go on a rampage to her heart's content. 
It seems I managed to manipulate her pretty well. 
Sakayanagi should also be aware of my cheap provocations but it seems she could not help but be triggered by them into answering. 
"Then, shall we leave, Masumi-san?". 
Saying that, Sakayanagi and Kamuro started to walk. I too, in order to pass them by, began to walk. And at the moment we truly passed by each other, Sakayanagi opened her mouth. 
"But even so, you're not saying anything are you, Masumi-san?". 
"Huh? About what?". 
"You saw me and Ayanokouji-kun talking to each other just the two of us, and we were discussing our strategies going forward. But even though that happened, you're not asking any questions about that, are you? Normally it feels like you would throw several questions at me though........". 
"Huh? What's that supposed to mean? It's just I'm not interested in it at all". 
"I wonder if that's true? You have the surprising tendency to put into words anything that catches your interest. Yet in this case, that's not evident at all. I wonder why?". 
Since Kamuro did not answer, Sakayanagi continued. 
"Could it be, you already possess some information regarding Ayanokouji-kun. And if that's the case, I wonder where you got your hands on such information......could it be, in a place I'm not aware of, the two of you have had a chance to meet each other in private?". 
Having sniffed out that slight strangeness, Sakayanagi stared at me with sharp eyes. But I neither replied to her with words nor did I return her gaze. 
If there is a fault to be had, then it lies with Kamuro. 
"Fufu. I suppose this is fine. Since I'm in a very good mood today I will let this slide. Then, have a pleasant day, Ayanokouji-kun". 
Saying that, she took Kamuro with her and left. Even during the winter vacation, to be used by Sakayanagi like that, Kamuro has it tough too. I wonder if that means that weakness of hers that was grasped was simply that large. It's just, at the very least it's worth hearing the matter about Ichinose and Kamuro carrying the same problem even if it's only half of it. 
At that moment, Sakayanagi stood to gain nothing from lying, but does not mean it would be wise to simply believe Sakayanagi's remark either. If I can learn the truth once Ichinose falls from her current position that's fine too. 
"Should I let at least Horikita know about it.....whatever should I do". 
Since they were currently allied with each other, Horikita may move to reinforce Ichinose. Personally I think it's better to leave it be, but the one to decide that is the one leading the class, in other words that role falls to Horikita. I'll directly inform her sometime over the winter vacation. Since I have decided there is no urgency to this matter, I'll hold off on contacting her right away. 
After that stormy existence had passed, I put on an innocent face and headed back towards the dorm. 
In order to accomplish my initial objective of delivering the items I had purchased. However, that objective of mine unexpectedly ended quickly. As I arrived at the entrance of Keyaki Mall, I passed by a girl who seemed healthy. 
Perhaps it was because she was in a rush, but without noticing my presence, she trotted off somewhere. Just in case, as I pursued her, I saw her meeting up with a friend and then her figure disappearing into a shop. 
I stared at her until she was no longer in sight, and I erased my decision to return to the dorm from my mind. 
"I guess I'll go see a movie then". 
I then headed towards the movie theater. 
Part 2 
Coming to the movie theater is not a strange thing for me to do. Because I periodically visit it over the holidays. For people, some may consider the expenditure of points on the appreciation of movies as a waste but it's an unexpectedly important thing to have various interests too. As for me, movie appreciation is becoming a hobby of mine. 
On top of it being ideal for relaxation, it also allows me to absorb new knowledge. Frequently, I have had my inquisitiveness stimulated by having a movie touch upon various subjects. 
But even so, it's not like the movie I will be watching today is a movie made with such expertise. It's not a painfully sweet romantic movie that's watched by couples in the midst of Christmas fever either. 
It's an action movie focusing on a small conflict between countryside mafia. There are days when I simply want to empty my head and watch the story. By the way, although the screening of this movie would end today, by no means is it a long-running masterpiece. It was a hopeless, B movie. As a result, I was able to reserve a seat with ease over the net but I continued to fret over whether to go watch or not, and ultimately on the last day of its screening, carried by a different purpose, it was a movie I had decided to go watch too. 
After a brief interaction with the receptionist, I designated the time and movie I'll be watching. I was handed over a laminated sheet with the seating chart printed on it. By the way, a miscalculation occurred here. The seats in the far back I usually use for movie appreciation seemed to be full and there did not appear to be much free space. 
Just with a slight delay in the screening of the scheduled popular movie, it seems the customers have turned their focus to this movie instead. On top of that, perhaps it's also because Christmas is near, but most of the seats were being reserved in sets of two. 
Rather than not watch anything at all as a couple, let's watch at least one. It's probably something like that. 
Feeling the center of the large opening in the front row would make it easy to watch, I told the operator that. As I did, luckily enough there seemed to be several vacancies in the center region, and I succeeded in securing a seat. I wonder if the popularity of the seats at the far ends have something to do with the presence or absence of couples? I don't know the circumstances of the movie theater in that regard. 
Since there was still roughly around 20 minutes until the screening starts, I decided to kill time in the corner where pamphlets were displayed. And around 10 minutes before they started admitting people in, I entered alone. 
From behind with a clatter, student couples enter. Sitting in the center of the front row, I patiently wait for the movie to begin. The seats around me begin to fill up from a relatively early point. I directed my gaze at the screen. Before the actual movie starts, I quite enjoy watching the preliminary announcements of movies soon-to-be screened. 
That's why before those preliminary announcements occur, I always make sure to be at my seat. Rather than watching it from the TV in my own room, it stirs greater interest in me as to what movies I should watch next. 
That sort of big screen is extraordinarily charming and it's no exaggeration to say that I've brought myself to the movie theater with that as my purpose. 
However, right now, in the theater it's not a cheerful movie commercial that's happening but rather commercials of convenience store goods that are being played. Turning over soft and full rice with a spoon or scenes where crispy sea moss is being burned on top of nets. And footage of children eating completed rice balls also played. 
As the screening time drew near and the seats began filling up gradually, I became curious as to what sort of situation is unfolding and lookied around. 
The same row was now mostly filled and to the right of me sat a couple. To the left, one seat over sat another couple. Using the darkness to their advantage, the were holding hands with each other. 
Even a movie of this quality still manages to bring in couples. Since the seat immediately to my left is still vacant, it would probably end up being a vacant seat up until the end. 
There's no one who would come and listlessly watch a movie alone the day right before Christmas Eve. At the same time as I placed my phone in silent mode, just in case, I switched the power off as well. Then, around the same time I did that, the lights in the cinema gently dimmed and the preliminary announcement of the movie began. 
This is the start of the exciting moments. 
Then with that timing, a shadow fell on me from my left. One student then lowered herself onto the seat. It seems there's yet another odd person like me who came to see a movie alone on the day before Christmas Eve. Just by her choosing this movie alone I'd like to offer her my praise. As I thought that, I let my gaze slide over. 
I ended up opening my mouth dumbly without thinking. The identity of that high school student was the student of Class C, Ibuki Mio. Just the day before, on the rooftop, after such a flashy incident occurred, an awkward feeling lingered. 
Fortunately enough, the lights inside the movie theater have already been turned off. Not noticing me, Ibuki directed her gaze towards the screen. I'm in the camp of those who watch the movie until the end credits have finished playing, but if I stay until the very end the lights may come back on. No helping it, today I'll be retreating as soon as the end credits roll. However, I had a single miscalculation here. 
That is, a problem that frequently occurs in movie theaters with the 'armrest'. 
If I were in the corner, I would have been able to surely make exclusive use of both the left and right armrests. However, in seats other than the corner, it's always a battle for possession of the armrest. 
As far as movie theater rules go, there are no regulations determining which armrest is whose and in a lot of cases, the early bird gets the worm. Since the couple that had arrived before I did were already making use of the armrest on my right, I had thought to use the armrest on my left but Ibuki casually placed her elbow on said armrest. 
It's not like there wasn't enough shared room on the armrest for two, but just with minor things, elbow and elbow would end up touching. Perhaps she became aware of that, but Ibuki as though she were unconsciously trying to confirm the other side, looked towards me. 
Naturally, since I was observing everything, our eyes met. 
The voice that came out right away was such a disgusted sound from Ibuki. Due to the commercials and the preliminary arrangements going silent miraculously at that moment, I was able to hear that quite well. 
"It's a coincidence, huh". 
Feeling that not saying anything in itself would be quite unnatural, I called out to her. However, without answering me, Ibuki averted her gaze. It seems she intends on ignoring me. 
That, too, lets me come to a clean decision that this makes things easier for me. Thinking that, I concentrated on the screen. However........ 
Ever since the screening started, I could feel a fixed gaze at me from Ibuki's side. Perhaps she was considerably curious regarding my presence, but it doesn't seem like she's focusing much on the movie. 
Why don't you watch the movie properly? Is what I would like to ask her but as long as I can't speak in a loud voice during screening that would prove difficult. Then should I try whispering into her ear? 
No, if I do such a thing, Ibuki might snap at me. Here I should simply endure Ibuki's gaze and spend the time pretending to not care. Fortunately, ever since childhood, I had been used to being 'monitored'. 
Not letting anything I've realized in my mind show on the surface, I watched the movie. It's just if there is a problem, it's that the movie itself is not a very good one. Truly a B movie. Ever since the screening began, isn't it about time to stop being so repetitive, I wonder. From now on, in order to attack the enemy, the protagonist is about to storm the enemy territory and just before that climax. 
Just before the scene that would make one's palms sweaty, suddenly the screen blacked out. At first thinking that it was some sort of performance, the students remained silent and continued to watch the screen. However, no matter whether we waited for 10 seconds or 20 seconds, neither the picture nor the sound showed any signs of progressing. This is strange? As I began thinking that, an announcement rang out inside the hall. 
"We apologize for this inconvenience. Due to trouble with the equipment, the screening will be halted temporarily. This may be an inconvenience but please stand by for a few moments". 
That announcement came forth. Even as students voiced their complaints all at once, it seems they've decided to quietly chat away while waiting. 
"Somehow I'm not in luck.....". 
As though she were directing it at me, Ibuki said that with a sigh. Does she mean to say the fault for the trouble with the equipment lies with me? 
"It's also unexpected for me. To think you'd come to the movies today". 
Towards me, she replied. 
"It's none of your business when and what timing I come at, right?". 
Perhaps she didn't like what I said, but she naturally gave me a rebuttal. 
That's why I answered like that to match her in the end. 
Saying something and then closing her mouth again for a moment, Ibuki opened her mouth once again with a strong gaze. 
"Up until now, you've been secretly mocking me deep down inside. I cannot forgive that fact". 
It's not like I don't understand Ibuki's feelings of anger, but she has no right to hold a grudge against me. 
Even if I comfort her, even if I say that's not the case, such follow ups won't work on Ibuki. That was why I chose to adopt the best policy. 
"That is power, Ibuki". 
Only a part of the theater, between me and Ibuki, an uneasy atmosphere flowed. Of course, it came from Ibuki's side. 
A sharp gaze was leveled at me filled with irritation and rage. But, without minding her, I continued speaking. 
"No matter what the situation is, if you only had the power to overcome your opponent, it wouldn't have become a problem, isn't that right? Just because your opponent happened to be somewhat hiding their abilities, that alone should not have caused you to pay any heed. If you had stopped me, Ryuuen and the others could have won. At the very least, it could have been brought to end in a draw". 
If after saying those caustic words, I had been beaten down on that rooftop, there would have been nothing lamer than that. 
"That is.........". 
That is something Ibuki absolutely cannot refute. 
That is one's strength. Whether your opponent is hiding their abilities or not, that should have been a trifling matter. 
"Besides, unlike Ryuuen and Sakayanagi, I have no intention of aiming for the upper classes nor do I have any intention of standing out through a one-man play. Naturally, because I don't want to stand out, I won't be showing off any unnecessary abilities. The fact that I fought against Ryuuen too, was a choice I had made after weighing my options on a scale and having decided there's no other choice. To mock my opponents, or look down on them, I've never even once thought of doing so". 
This is not something I'm saying to comfort Ibuki. In a sense, Ibuki may be feeling even more humiliated than ever before. To humiliate one's opponent, that is in other words, to not even acknowledge them as a threat. But, what I'm trying to say is that to me, Ibuki is just like a stone on the side of the road. 
".......I don't like it". 
No matter how logically I put it, obviously it would be difficult for her to accept it emotionally. 
"You say you don't want to stand out, but that's strange. If you hadn't done something to stimulate Ryuuen back on the uninhabited island, something like this would never have happened. No, even before that. If you had just overlooked Sudou's violence incident, that would have been it". 
"That's right. You may be correct on that point". 
If I had simply let Sudou be expelled, allowed Ibuki's tricks to throw Class D into disarray on the uninhabited island and allowed the shipboard test to proceed as normal, Ryuuen would not have eyed Class D in the first place. In particular, during the battle with Class B, I should have hid myself away. 
"Even though you say various things with your mouth, you were using your abilities. Even though you were hiding, you were still using them". 
I have the right to use my own abilities. 
But, for Ibuki who wouldn't like that sort of phrasing, it must have been an unacceptable reality for her. Perhaps Ibuki had thought any further conversation would be a waste of her time but she gazed out at the blacked out screen. I too, without objection, let bygones be bygones. Either way, soon the screening will resume. Then my time with Ibuki would be over too. 
Part 3 
Once the movie ends, I'll leave without watching the end credits too. Such a vision that I had imagined was all too quickly smashed to pieces. It had become an unexpected situation. 
I waited and waited but the screening did not resume. Perhaps the trouble with the equipment is proving to be difficult or it's just that they're inefficient. Both Ibuki and I are feeling equally awkward so I'd like to get this over with already. 
Such unabashed sighs came repeatedly from Ibuki. However, in a situation like this, it's understandable to want to sigh. I've already started to lose interest in the movie. 
"Ahh---.....what do you think is going to happen?". 
No longer able to stand this silence, I tried initiating a conversation like that. Since she must be curious about what's going to happen too, Ibuki should not be leaving her seat. If this were not the case, she would have left a long time ago. 
Or it's simply that since the other students were showing no signs of leaving, she could not do so either? However, Ibuki rested her chin on her hand while placing it on the armrest opposite from me and showed no signs of even looking at me. 
I felt as though an opaque glass or a considerably thick glass had been placed between me and Ibuki. 
Needless to say, Ibuki's attitude was one that was saying 'You're annoying so don't talk to me'. 
I thought as much, but it might be better if I stopped beating around the bush here. Even now it feels as though a poisonous snake is about to leap out and bite down on my arm. As a result, I decided to remain silent. But, when exactly is the screening going to resume I wonder. Even though it's only here and there, students who were beginning to tire of having to wait have already begun leaving their seats. 
I had thought Ibuki would have gone along with this flow and leave too, but she isn't showing any signs of leaving her seat. Perhaps she simply wishes to see the continuation of the movie or perhaps--- 
In any case, I too, want to watch this movie to the end and see how it concludes. If I don't, then the very meaning of having come here to watch it in the first place would be lost. I suppose this is the time to show off my perseverance. Switching on my phone, I checked the time. 
Approximately 20 minutes have passed since the announcement. Not just this screening, it seems like this is going to have a huge impact on the next screening as well. As I turned back and looked, the number of customers remaining had sharply decreased down to only a few people, including me and Ibuki. 
If they had come to see the movie alone, they may have persevered, but in the case of couples they could not afford to keep their partners waiting. They probably don't want to waste their precious time alone with their lovers in here. I should interpret this as them having migrated away before it gets too boring. 
", aren't you going back?". 
As I lowered my gaze down to my phone, Ibuki called out to me. She had turned her head away from me to the extent I could not see her expression. 
It seems her suspicion towards the fact that I had not left caused her to speak out. 
"I've already watched 80% of it and honestly, I'm curious about how it'll conclude. It's already been a 20 minutes wait so it should be resuming soon". 
I've persevered up until now, so it would be a waste for me to go back now. A mysterious theory like that formed inside my head. 
"If it's about the conclusion, you can search it on the net and as much results as you want will show up, right? Including whether or not it was interesting". 
"I don't feel like reading the reviews reflecting the opinions of others". 
The true quality of the work, whether it be good or bad, is something that I won't know unless I watch it myself. 
Of course, it can be a reference index that could be used to decide whether or not to watch the movie but it is by no means something that can be used to evaluate the movie. Not to mention if 1 or 2 lines explaining something as important as the climax can satisfy you, there would be no need to even think about coming here to the theater and watching it. 
"I don't care about this movie anymore. I just don't want to leave before you, that is all". 
"You're rather straightforward". 
It seems she's persevering for a reason completely unrelated to the movie itself. However, unfortunately enough, Ibuki won't be winning this contest. 
It's a draw. I have no intention of leaving my seat until the screening resumes. I suppose this could be interpreted as being the advantage a man who has no plans for Christmas Eve tomorrow has. 
The thing which concluded this contest between the two of us was a sad announcement. That was, the fact that the trouble with the equipment could not be fixed and the screening would be cancelled. It was also explained that the process of reimbursing us would occur. 
"I'm really not in luck". 
In other words, if I wanted to know the conclusion, I'd either have to wait until I could borrow the movie and then borrow it or simply read the spoilers on a review site to complete it. 
Even though the cancellation of the screening had been announced, without even looking at me, Ibuki still showed no signs of moving. So I decided to leave the movie theater since my business here is done. 
Part 4 
Now, perhaps it's the fault of the strange waiting time but my shoulders were feeling unusually stiff. There were unforeseen entanglements with Sakayanagi and Ibuki too, so I don't feel like taking a detour in going back. As I left the movie theater intending on heading back, a voice called out to me from behind. 
"Hey, wait. Do you think you can just keep on hiding your identity from your surroundings like this?". 
It's Ibuki. After chasing me all the way here I was wondering what she had to say, but it's just that. 
"Haven't you been paying attention to the conversation? You should keep what happened at that time locked away inside you". 
"This isn't a joke. All this time, in your mind you've been ridiculing me". 
I cannot forgive that, is something she doesn't even need to say, it's written all over Ibuki's face. It seems her dissatisfaction towards my conduct, words and ideas earlier had grown further. 
"Then what are you going to do about it? Will you try spreading it around?". 
"........I won't do that. I won't be the only one in trouble then, right?". 
"That's right. Depending on the situation, not only the members who were there on the rooftop but also Manabe and the others will be caught up in it". 
If they follow the chain of circumstances all the way back, the school side may even trace it back to me. However, I can come up with as many excuses as necessary. The very most they would be able to achieve is get me suspended from school. 
"In the first place, conflict between classes is the foundation of this school. You're barking up the wrong tree by blaming me". 
It's only troublesome even if she expects me to fight fair and square here. 
"I get it, I get's just physiologically speaking, I cannot accept you". 
As I analyzed this girl known as Ibuki Mio, I could see Ibuki has yet to take a single step towards adulthood. In all likelihood, she's practiced martial arts ever since she was a child and has continued to take pride in her own strength. During childhood, there is barely any difference between males and females as far as strength is concerned. Therefore, as long as she possesses the proper technique, it is fairly easy to acquire the power needed to overwhelm the opposite sex. However, as one ages, this becomes progressively more difficult and around the time one hits middle school, the gap between the potentials of the bodies grow. If one considers only the strength of the body, then it can be said that there is nothing at which females are superior to than males. 
This is not discrimination, but a genuine gap that exists. Of course, considering your average high school student, Ibuki could be categorized as being fairly strong. A man without any martial arts training could not possibly hope to compete against her. However, against a man whose potential is the same as or surpasses hers who has also undergone the same level of training, it is unfortunate but there is no way for her to win. People naturally learn such facts. But Ibuki is still a 1st year high school student. She probably has yet to acknowledge that wall of difference. 
"Going all quiet like that, what are you thinking about?". 
"I was wondering how I can resolve this peacefully". 
"So? Did you think of anything?". 
"Unfortunately I couldn't think of any way. No matter what I say, you don't seem like you'd accept it". 
For the first time today, just slightly, Ibuki loosened the corners of her lips. 
"Correct. I won't accept it, I won't withdraw". 
As I expected......... 
In order to unravel this inexplicable puzzle, a frontal attack may be what's needed. 
"By the you happen to like movies quite a bit?". 
It's natural that Ibuki would take a 'What the hell are you asking me' attitude. However, I ignored that attitude and continued. 
I daringly tried unleashing an ordinary topic of discussion. 
"To the point you came to watch this movie alone. Not to mention it's a fairly minor movie". 
"Isn't that fine? I have my own objective". 
I was hindered by that mysterious expression. 
"........To watch every movie that's being screened in this school. It's not such a significant objective". 
No, that's surprisingly an amazing thing. Everyone, in regards to this school lifestyle, have brought with them an objective they've decided on themselves. To make friends. To always go out on a holiday. To graduate without being absent or late a single time. To continue getting 1st place on tests. 
From simple things to achieve to the more difficult ones. Even amongst them, what Ibuki brought with her, 'to watch every movie that is being screened' is something that seems simple at first glance yet I believe is one of the more difficult ones. Naturally it'll be easier to go watch the movies you like, but for genres in which you're not interested, it would be harder to get yourself to go and watch them. The majority of people would think of such an objective only as a pastime. However, no matter what, anything at all, to establish an objective and to follow through with it is surprisingly a precious thing. 
".......what, are you mocking me?". 
"I wonder". 
Having interpreted my silence in a bad way, Ibuki glares at me. I could have honestly praised her too, but I dared not do so. This is a bit of a bother for me too. In any case, it would be for the better for me to split with Ibuki quickly. If I stick with her any longer, we may be witnessed together unnecessarily by the other students. 
"So what are you going to do now? Shall we have tea together?". 
"Stop joking. I'm leaving". 
Obviously she did not accept my invitation. I had already known I would be rejected. But to keep up that flow I continued on with my words. 
"Then you'll go right, I'll turn left. And with that we'll adjourn for today". 
As I said that, I pointed out the roads to the left and right. If the both of us walk off in separate directions, not a single problem would occur. This is the ideal path. 
"What? I also want to get away from you without a second's delay. You don't even have to tell me". 
Our love seemed to be perfectly mutual, as Ibuki immediately turned right. I too, turned my back towards Ibuki and moved towards the left. However--- 
I had my arm grasped from behind. Ibuki was pulling on my arm. 
"Oi, what is it?". 
"Shut up. Ishizaki and the others are coming this way". 
As though to hide, she dragged me off into the shadows, and then quietly observed the situation. Then, with a slight delay, as I followed Ibuki's gaze, I saw Komiya and Kondou with Ishizaki at their center. 
Just up until now, Ryuuen should have been amongst them but of course he was not present there. 
"Is Ishizaki ok? He still seems unsteady on his feet". 
"Shut up. He's already fine". 
But perhaps his entire body is in pain, Ishizaki walks while distorting his expression in agony at times. Seeing such a situation, Komiya anxiously looked around and said. 
"Speaking of which, that thing earlier........that you fought with Ryuuen-san, is that for real?". 
".......yeah. Albert and Ibuki were with me too. Ryuuen-san', Ryuuen's time is up. From now on, that Ryuuen bastard won't be ordering anyone around anymore". 
"That is a relief, but you know. Who's going to be making the strategies from now on?". 
"As if I know. Kaneda will probably take care of it". 
As they exchanged such words, the three of them passed by in front of us. 
"Fuu. They didn't notice us". 
Ibuki relaxes. She probably did not want her classmates to see her alone together with me. Especially Ishizaki, since there's no telling what kind of reaction he would have towards that. However, Ishizaki's words that we heard had indeed reached our ears.
"......a mail came to me from Ishizaki a while ago. That Ryuuen guy, he didn't quit school after all". 
"Is that so?". 
As I said it like it was someone else's business, Ibuki drew close. 
"You did something. If not, it's hard to imagine that Ryuuen would change his mind". 
"Even if I did something to stop him, didn't you try to stop him?". 
From the slip of her tongue and her attitude as well as her tone, I had a feeling that was the case but it seems like I'm spot on. 
"I hate Ryuuen to death. But, the fact that someone like you, who's not even our classmate, had such a strong impact on him is something I hate even more and cannot forgive". 
"It's precisely because I am an outsider, that I could impact him. And vice versa, what I cannot do would be something you would be able to do. Just like how Ishizaki is intending on carrying out his duty". 
Even though it was an interaction overheard as they passed by, it's not too difficult for me to guess what had happened. Chivalry, is what they'd call it I suppose. I could tell that Ishizaki, too, even though he started out hating Ryuuen, is doing this as a courtesy to him. 
" you really think so? Isn't it just because you can stand above Ryuuen and make an appeal that way?". 
Ibuki said that without obediently acknowledging Ishizaki's idea. But that's just a leading question. Ibuki is aiming to draw out what thoughts I truly have on the matter. Ibuki's eyes are saying as much. 
"Right back at you, do you really think so?". 
That's why I decided to return the question as it is to her. 
".........I should say no, but, we were thoroughly oppressed. Even if it was three of us, the fact that he defeated Ryuuen should inevitably cause Ishizaki's evaluation in the class to rise". 
"I see. You could also look at it that way". 
As I nodded as though I had been convinced, she lightly kicks me on the back of my knee. 
"Can't you dodge this?". 
"Hey look, I'm not an esper or anything you know. I can't dodge everything". 
Even though Ibuki was suspicious, she did not pursue the matter any further. 
"So what did you think about it, Ishizaki's remarks?". 
Perhaps she was dissatisfied with just having her opinions asked, but she asked me like that. 
"Even if I say I disliked it, it would mean I still have acknowledged his ability". 
The downsides of having Ryuuen expelled, Ishizaki may have been able to sense it from experience. While drafting the plot that Ryuuen came up with, they had a falling out, that would be the case. Not once speaking out openly about what happened with me, he seems to be honorably upholding the promise. Of course, this is all a part of my calculations, but there had been no absolute guarantee. Leaving aside now, the possibility that he would change his mind tomorrow and reveal everything is not zero. Even about Karuizawa's matter, if he felt like spreading it around it could be spread around. 
"Albert probably won't say anything but how long do you think Ishizaki will keep quiet?". 
Ibuki is also aware of that, that's why she tried to confirm the situation by using that as a provocation. 
"If he speaks out, then he speaks out. I'm thinking about what to do then". 
"......ahh, I see". 
Since I showed neither surprise nor agitation, it seems Ibuki immediately lost her interest. In any case, Ishizaki and the others are gone. Now I can finally split up with----- 
I crouched down instantly and lowered my head a few dozen centimeters. At that very moment, Ibuki kicked the space my head had been occupying at a high speed. 
" much for not being able to dodge. You dodged it, didn't you?". 
"It was a kick from the front after all. More like, you kicked me with all your strength didn't you?". 
A roundhouse kick from an experienced martial artist. If it had been a direct hit, a concussion would have been unavoidable. 
"Even though you're so strong, you won't let even a bit of it out. Why?". 
"Do you usually go around announcing your strength to everyone?" 
"Whether we're talking about martial arts or whatever, as long as there's no opportunity for you to use it, you won't receive acknowledgement from someone. Unlike Sudou, Ishizaki and the others, I'm not the vigorous, enthusiastic type". 
"Fight me". 
"What did you say?". 

"I said fight me again. Let me fight you when you're serious and going all out". 
Perhaps she simply could not let go of that matter, Ibuki once again switched into battle mode. If only Ishizaki and the others had not shown up, I could have easily split up from her........ 
"How did it even end up like this?". 
"I hate you. I hate that you're using your front face and your back face for different purposes". 
"I see". 
It's because for better or for worse, she's seen guys like Ryuuen and Ishizaki. Ibuki is the same too. Leaving aside the fact that she acted the role of a spy on the uninhabited island, the real Ibuki is the same. 
"I've always had this sort of personality, so you have no right to hold a grudge against me. Even if I say that, it's useless isn't it?". 
And with those two characters, she denied it. 
"Leaving aside what's happened up until now, unless I get payback for what happened on that rooftop I won't be satisfied". 
No matter what I say, it doesn't seem like she's going to be listening. Now that Ibuki has recovered, she's thinking of pursuing a chance at victory. It would be a simple task for me to just run away here but once the 3rd semester begins and she pushes the matter the same way as now it would be far more troublesome. Naturally, Ibuki also catches onto that. 
"Once the semester starts and I carelessly interact with you, that would just mean more trouble for you, wouldn't it?". 
Even if she doesn't directly spread it around, simply by sticking with someone from a different class, our surroundings would get suspicious of us. Is that really fine with you? It's a somewhat forceful threat that's saying something like that. 
If I had to say, that too is something akin to 'spreading it around' but Ibuki seems like she wishes to deny that is the case. 
"If you want me to withdraw, you have no other choice but to fight me again". 
Even if she says that one word, 'fight', it can have several meanings. 
"You're not saying you want to fight through Go and Shogi, are you?". 
"I don't know the rules for either one of those". 
That is truly unfortunate. I was confident in my skills for the both of those. 
"The way to settle the fight is already obvious, isn't it?". 
Saying that, she took a fighting stance inside the mall packed with pedestrians. I don't even have to think, it's that sort of thing. She surely must have been deciding things to be black or white through this means. 
".......perhaps, it might be that nothing will change". 
"Hah. Are you saying even if we fight, the result won't change?". 
Perhaps my words left her uneasy, but as though she were about to burst a vein, Ibuki curled her lips. Her lips, which had been relaxed just a moment ago, now seemed like a far off memory. 
"Not just the result, even Ibuki's own way of thinking". 
It seems like she also understands based on the way she lost on the rooftop that even if she gets a rematch, the result of it will not change. However, no matter in which manner her loss had been, there's no mistaking the fact that Ibuki was not satisfied with it. It has nothing to do with males and's probably just that she doesn't want to acknowledge her defeat. 
'Then you win'. Even if I say that, it'll only amount to pouring oil on a fire. 
"In the end, you won't accept the fight, will you?". 
Of course, ordinarily there's no way I'd accept. Especially since I'm tired right now, I genuinely don't wish to take any unnecessary action. But--- 
"Do you have time?". 
I called out like that to Ibuki without rejecting her. 
".......nothing in particular. Other than the movie, I don't really have anything scheduled. Could it be you're accepting?". 
Obviously, Ibuki who hadn't expected me to agree, was left confused. In fact, it seemed as though she were taking a step back. 
"Was it a joke?". 
"No such thing. If you're going to be accepting, then that's just how I like it". 
Although she had been surprised, Ibuki immediately snaps back. It seems as though she wants to start the fight right away and she's leaning forward. 
But we can't afford to do that. There are a lot of people going in and out of Keyaki Mall. It's a place that's far too conspicuous. 
"You're accepting? Declining?". 
"I wonder what I should do. I mean, this place is too conspicuous isn't it? Even if we fight as you proposed, what'll you do about the location?". 
This is Keyaki Mall. There are countless eyes watching us. Furthermore, if we are to avoid being seen by anyone, there's no avoiding a change of location. But even if I say that, the school grounds is also basically out of the question. During this winter vacation, there's no telling who has eyes where. At this point there's no other choice than to move to our rooms inside the dormitory but a fight there cannot possibly be arranged, Ibuki also understands that. 
" We'll search from now". 
"There's no option to simply give up, is there?". 
"By meeting here you're already doomed". 
Saying that, Ibuki turned her back on me and started walking. It seems she wants me to follow her. 
"What will you do if I run away?". 
"I'll run after you, catch up to you and when I find you, I'll dropkick you on the spot". 
So it seems to be the case. Suppressing my urge to run, I followed her. 
"I'll say this ahead of time but the main premise of this conversation is that we find a suitable location". 
"I know such a thing already". 
As long as she acknowledges that, for now I'll accept it. If she cannot find an isolated place, then this conversation too should be water under the bridge. Compared to me onesidedly rejecting her, Ibuki won't do anything reckless that way. I'm taking action based on that reading. Even though I'm a few meters behind Ibuki, who's walking ahead, I don't want to act together for long with her. 
Then, Ibuki desperately walks around Keyaki Mall. She looks around to see if there is an isolated blind spot somewhere. But she won't find one easily. There are places inside the mall where students cannot approach to an extent, but there are surveillance cameras there. And besides, even if students aren't there, employees will inevitably be present. 
But this would be the case even if we were to leave the mall. It would be a different story if we were behind a school building but as long as we cannot enter without our uniforms, that too, would be impossible. 
It would be strange if we went out of our ways to change into our uniforms and meet up again, and if other students were to see us entering the school together, that in itself is already similar to a failure. I went along with her provocations in anticipation of that but as I thought, it was the right move. 
"Let's give up already, shall we? In the first place, a blind spot in this school is---". 
"Wait a minute". 
She interrupts me. Perhaps she had thought of a good idea but she turned her eyes in a certain direction. What Ibuki was looking at was a door with glass windows fixed on it with the words 'Only Staff Permitted' written on them. 
Conveniently enough, perhaps the staff inside was working, but he came out of there along with a flatcar. Wearing yellow aprons with the nameplate 'Kimura' written on them. And in a large font, the characters Keyaki Mall Pharmacy were printed on them. On the flatcar, there were three corrugated cardboards which looked like they contained goods. He was pushing that flatcar and heading towards the pharmacy inside the mall. In all likelihood, he were restocking their goods. 
"Follow me". 
"Oi that place is---". 
As she called out to me like that, Ibuki placed her hand on the door. Opening the door, it looks like this is a warehouse where goods are stockpiled. There were no staff present, it was a dimly lit space with only minimal lighting turned on. Looking at the cardboard boxes, it seems candies and gauzes and the such were packed into them. As I thought, all goods belonging to the pharmacy. The heater is not working and it's slightly chilly. 
"If it's here, no one will see us. Am I wrong?". 
Indeed, in a place like this meant for exclusive use by the staff, there are no surveillance cameras installed. However, isn't this usually a place that should have been locked. 
I can hardly imagine a place like this would normally be left wide open. So this could mean an employee had coincidentally forgotten to lock this place? Or it could be that they expected to be back in no time and so left without bothering to lock it. No matter which one it is, staying too long in a place like this would only lead to trouble. The very fact that a student would be here is nothing but unnatural. If we're discovered, there's no avoiding a scolding. 
"It's not a big deal, right? Just say we came in here by mistake and that'll be the end of it. It'll be a different story if we steal something but luckily we don't have any bags we could hide anything in either, we're completely empty-handed". 
Certainly we'll be able to make an excuse seems Ibuki's desire to settle this no matter what is rather strong. 
It means she's more or less willing to take risks. Even if she understands the result already, 'perhaps', that feeling absolutely won't vanish. 
"It's not much but in such a confined space, we can't fight, can we?". 
This is not much different from the dormitory room I had initially thought of. 
"I don't really mind though?" 
As long as it fulfills the condition of no one seeing us, it seems she has no intention of asking for any luxuries. 
"Even if you say that.....if the staff from earlier come back immediately what'll you do?". 
And besides, normally places like this are locked down to prevent people from wandering in. There aren't much chances of the goods being stolen, but the probability of that happening isn't zero. 
Perhaps they didn't lock it down since they were intending on coming back here afterwards, or perhaps they had simply forgotten. Either way, there's no way no one would drop by for a long time. 
"If we finish this before then, it's fine right?". 
Not even listening to my opinion, such optimism. 
As I desperately tried to propose a change of location, with a resounding 'Gashan' sound, I could hear it being locked. 
"It seems there's a possibility of this heading in a bad direction, it seems like they forgot to lock this place down and came back to do that". 
"There's no need to panic really". 
I urged Ibuki to look at the doorknob. Ibuki then dubiously looks at the doorknob too. 
"......hey. How come there's no way to open the key?". 
"For a glass window fixed door like this one, there are cases where there is no thumb turn on the interior. A thumb turn is, by the way, the way to open the key as you put it". 
It is for crime prevention purposes that a thumb turn was not installed. Because if one smashes the glass, they can simply insert their hand through it and use the thumb turn on the interior to unlock the door. 
"In other words, we can't get out?". 
"That would be the case". 
"What's with that? Every time I get involved with you, does it mean I'll end up trapped in a locked room? Ahh mou, remembering the elevator is only making me feel more nauseous". 
"This time I'm completely unrelated. Isn't it because you entered this place?". 
"Huh? Are you saying it's my fault?". 
No, really, there's nowhere else for the responsibility to go but to Ibuki. Before it was the midsummer elevator, now it's midwinter. Strange things like this also happen. 
"But even so, the circumstances are different compared to the time with the elevator. The composition of the glass seems to be nothing out of the ordinary, so in the worst case scenario, it's a simple enough matter to simply smash it". 
"So that means in the worst case, we can still get out?". 
"However, it would mean a third party would definitely end up knowing about it". 
The fact that we had entered the warehouse would certainly end up being discovered. 
"......fine. I'll just have you change your way of thinking and go with a positive outlook". 
"I have a bad feeling about this though". 
"That feeling is accurate. I've confirmed that if it's here, there'll be no one to get in our way". 
As Ibuki looked back towards me, she took a fighting stance. 
"I'll let you decide the rules. Until the opponent acknowledges their loss? Until they lose consciousness?". 
This situation in which there is no escape, it seems Ibuki is intent on using it to her advantage. In a situation like this, even if I wanted to escape, that would not be possible. 
"Then when the opponent declares they give up, that'd be their loss". 
"......hold on. On second thought, I'll decide the rules". 
"If we go with those rules, then before we even start fighting, you'll just acknowledge your loss won't you?". 
"That's why, whether I think it's a win or a loss. Until black and white are clearly decided we'll continue with this fight". 
What an overbearing and unreasonable thing to say. 
"I got it. I don't mind going along with that proposal of yours. However, since you're going around making up conditions, I'll have you agree to my one condition as well". 
"Once we've settled this, you are forbidden to challenge me ever again. Is that clear? Of course, if it's a legitimate fight in an exam set by the school, then I have no right to forbid you from that but at the very least, for a personal fight like this, I'll have you make this the last one". 
" the first place I was intending on settling it all here". 
It seems she has no complaints with that, as Ibuki slightly nodded and accepted it. If that's decided then all I can do is throw my switch on as well. From the rooftop incident to this, the continuation of this hand-to-hand combat was outside my expectations but it can't be helped. 
On the contrary, the real problem lies after I have defeated Ibuki. 
Let's end this quickly without dragging it out. 
"You really are an annoying guy. You're prioritizing thoughts about getting out of here". 
"The location matters after all, if they find out we've entered the warehouse it'll become a problem too". 
The excuse that 'we entered by mistake' will not have a strong effect unless we contact them immediately. The fact that we entered the warehouse while the delivery of goods is taking a long time, is a heavy one. 
Regardless of whether she had realized my feelings or not, Ibuki continued to kick away at me while being on her guard. 
As I expected, her footwork is the core. It's not an easy task to continue dodging in this small warehouse. And on top of that, I'd like to avoid damaging the piled up cardboards too if possible. I also have my various expenses, and since I'm borrowing 'a sizable amount of private points' to Karuizawa as well, I'd like to avoid pointless expenditures. 
However, I doubt a little counterattack here will be enough to break Ibuki's spirit. In a fight she's betting her pride on, she won't easily give up. But even if I knocked her unconscious, this would still be the case. Ibuki would still obstinately refuse to acknowledge her defeat. 
A rule where the person in question would decide victory or defeat, a troublesome fight got forced onto me. 
In order to win, I have to attack but I cannot afford to simply beat her down. If this were a fight to the death, I won't show any mercy either but this is just an unrelated fight without any benefits for me. Whether it be on her face or on her abdomen, I don't want to clumsily leave behind any scars and blotches on her. And if that is the case, then the number of techniques I can use on her will inevitably be limited. To force her to acknowledge her loss yet not injure her. A method to make both of those happen. 
Of course, it's not like both of them are assured but.....I avoided Ibuki's kick with the bare minimum movement required. It's not my dominant hand, but I used my left hand. 
Pan! And with a dry sound like that, I used my palm to smack Ibuki's forehead. A technique that utilizes the hard part on the base of one's palm to strike the opponent. It is possible to have the damage caused by it permeate into the interior of the target. Accompanied by an intense sound and pain, Ibuki collapsed backwards as though she were blown away. 
The opponent, who had gotten hammered by that attack, without even knowing what hit her, had her consciousness shaken by the pain and the panic. If I had hit her with even a bit more force, she probably would have lost consciousness. 
Recklessly, Ibuki poured everything she had into defeating the enemy in front of her. Even if it's easy for me to exterminate her consciousness, it's not so easy to exterminate her feelings. 
".....are you telling me you didn't even need to take this seriously?". 
Resisting her swaying field of vision, Ibuki holds her forehead in her hands while glaring at me. 
"If you're also an experienced martial artist, then you should understand too". 
"I do understand. I don't need something like that to be pointed out to me.....but, there are things I cannot accept". 
That is, this fight with me in other words. Ibuki roared out words that didn't even sound like words and once again came kicking at me. The opening she gave me was by no means small, it was a kick that emphasized nothing but pure strength. It may be a one-hit surekill she's betting on, on top of understanding that she won't be hitting me through trickery. 
Or could it be she's preparing for a counter through simultaneously hitting each other? Either way, I have no intention of letting her land that attack on me. I used my right hand to block Ibuki's kick and used my free left hand to grab Ibuki's throat. 
A state where she would no longer be able to breathe comfortably. As though she were struggling, Ibuki used both her hands to grasp my left hand. She digs in with her nails and resists desperately, but my left hand did not even budge. 
"Make your decision, Ibuki. Do you want to stop here, or pointlessly continue? If you choose the latter, there's no future for you". 
If she would be convinced by such simple words, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. 
However, even so, in the end just one more time I decided to test Ibuki. 
"Ryuuen showed it off. How about you, Ibuki? Do you have enough ability to show it off?". 
Ibuki glared at me with as much intensity as she had before. However---Ibuki's hands trembled and she slowy placed that hand on top of my left hand. 
Ton, ton, ton. She weakly tapped me three times. From that gesture, and her closed eyes and the resigned look on her face I understand. I gently loosened my left hand and released Ibuki. 
"Hah......hah. I didn't think you'd go easy on me just because I'm a woman, but you really showed me no mercy". 
"You're not exactly an opponent I can go easy on, are you?". 
And besides, if I had gone easy on her, Ibuki would have gone berserk even further. Well, it is true that I was barely trying in terms of using my abilities but that's another story. 
The important thing is that I didn't look like I was holding back on her. 
"Ahh mou. Why......?". 
Even though she looked frustrated, it seems Ibuki had been allayed as she sat down in that spot. 
"Fine. I just have to acknowledge it, right? It's your victory". 
I don't even care about winning or losing but if Ibuki will be satisfied with that then I won't deny it. This reckless fight, too, had some meaning for the both of us. 
"I've never seen someone as strong as you before, not even amongst adults. How did you even become this strong?". 
"By practicing repeatedly every day. It's obvious for someone who understands martial arts, right?". 
"Ahh, I see". 
Having understood that I wasn't answering her seriously, Ibuki sighed as though she had given up. 
"So? How did we get out from here now? I'm telling you to let me cooperate with you too". 
"It's very simple". 
From the school's site, I will call Keyaki Mall, or rather, the pharmacy inside it with my phone. 
"Excuse me, is a clerk named Kimura-san there?.....yes, if he's there, please get him on the line if you wouldn't mind?". 
Not long after, the clerk named Kimura answered the phone. I informed him of the fact that we were trapped in here. 
"If it's like this, won't it become a problem?". 
"That's right. There's no guarantee that we can through this without a penalty. To get this over with without making it a big deal, I'm going to have you act like a fool too, Ibuki". 
Not too long after, the staff who had locked the door earlier, opened the door and entered. Then, upon spotting us in the warehouse, he proceeded to question us on why we entered and why we did not immediately contact them. 
"Sorry, I got ecstatic on my date with her and ended up searching for an isolated place. I didn't realize this place would be locked". 
I used the fact that we were on the cusp of Christmas, and played the part of the idiotic couple who ended up getting over excited. Naturally, even as a lie, I won't make the statement that we are 'lovers' because if the staff decide to report this to their superiors, it may be interpreted as a fabrication. I simply avoided making a direct statement like that, and only acted to make them think that way. 
"Right, Mio? You should apologize too". 
"H-Huh? What're you---". 
Ibuki immediately responded to having been called by her first name, but I used my stare to shut her up. It's this sort of situation, she should understand that any verbal slips here could end up hurting us. Of course, I have thought about the off-chance that she would betray me and have prepared accordingly for it. In the worst case scenario, I'll receive damage too but I'll make sure she suffers more damage. I've made preparations to push more than half the responsibility for this onto Ibuki. Because it's difficult for me to prove that it was Ibuki who willfully entered this room. 
"......I'm sorry". 
Even though she seemed dissatisfied, Ibuki lowered her head. 
Going along with that flow, I informed them that we have not touched any of the items. The male staff repeatedly and strictly cautioned against it, but blame also lies in the fact that they had forgotten to lock the door, and so this time it ended with the decision for them to not report to their superiors. This is also the reason I did not call just about any random staff in the mall, but specifically the person in question who forgot to lock the door, because I was aiming for this. After he let us go after lecturing us, the clerk named Kimura locked the door and returned to his work. 
"Somehow we got through this". 
", in that one moment, you saw even the clerk's name?". 
Even more than having her first name be called by me, she seems to be more interested in that. 
"It wasn't intentional. It just happened to catch my eye". 
"Ahh, I see". 
Even though she was the one who asked me that, her response seems somewhat cold. 
"In any case, I'll never get myself involved with you again. And with that, we'll come to an agreement". 
"I'm thankful for that". 
"But before that......just let me hear your opinion on one last thing". 
"In order to ascend to Class A, one requires 20 million points individually, you know that right? In order for the whole class to do so, it'll be 800 million points. That ridiculous amount of private points, do you think it's possible to save that much up before graduation?". 
"It's impossible. It's something everyone thinks about, yet gives up on in the end". 
I replied to her immediately. 
"I see. That's right, I guess". 
"Is that the last thing you wanted to ask?". 
"Yeah, it's over. See you". 
Perhaps she had nothing more to say to me, but she shut up and walked off. And with this, I've cut off my connection to Ibuki, or I'd like to think that......but as long as we'll be together for 3 years, there will be a day where I would not be able to say this. 
I had such a premonition. 
Part 5 
"In various ways, it's been a disaster". 
Even as my initial schedule changed partly, I was able to overcome this long half day and it finally seems like I'd be able to successfully return to the dorm. During winter vacation, an outing seems to have danger attached to it as well. First Sakayanagi and Kamuro, then the dispute with Ibuki. I passed by Ishizaki and the others as well. 
Checking the time on my phone, it seems like it's almost 3 PM. 
"Ahaha. You can say that again---". 
As I was walking through Keyaki Mall in order to head back to the dorm, I saw a group of three girls turn the corner and start walking slightly ahead of me. Satou, Shinohara and also Matsushita. All three were students of Class D. They were walking while having a friendly conversation with each other. Since I have plans to meet with Satou the day after tomorrow, my gaze was unconsciously stolen away by her. 
I hid my presence so as to not be noticed and kept at a distance where I could pick up their voices. Because if there's any information that could be useful to me I could acquire here, I'd consider it lucky. 
"In the end, up until Christmas we couldn't get ourselves boyfriends at all---". 
Matsushita said that while looking at the couples surrounding them and sighing. 
"Even though if you thought about getting yourself one, you could get yourself one right away. Because you're cute". 
Shinohara naughtily chuckles while poking Matsushita's armpit. 
"I don't want to date someone so badly to the point I have to compromise". 
"That's true too~. But, on second thought, I want a boyfriend". 
"Then do you have a boyfriend candidate in mind?". 
Towards Shinohara, Matsushita asks that, but Shinohara crossed her arms together and made a complicated face. 
"Not at all. First of all our class is catastrophic". 
"The one and only ultimate prize has been taken away by Karuizawa-san after all---". 
Of course by prize, they mean Hirata. 
"Since we've been fighting against other classes all the time during the exams, we barely had any time to make friends. Since it's come to this, I wonder if it'll be better to just go out with a senior student---is what I'm thinking. Really, a university student would be better though". 
Matsushita said that her school year is of the question. 
"Senior student, huh---. I might be the opposite, I wouldn't want someone older than me. If I'm going to be getting into romance, it'd be with someone my age I suppose". 
On the other hand, Shinohara seems to prefer someone from her school year. 
"What about you, Satou-san?". 
"Ehh? Me? That's right---. Like Shinohara-san, I'd prefer one of my classmates". 
"No, no. No one said anything about classmates". 
Shinohara immediately denies it. It seems in regards to that, she feels the need to deny it. 
"Speaking of which, Satou-san haven' been talking to Ayanokouji-kun?". 
Suddenly, my name was uttered. If I suddenly turn to look then it'll be an out with just that. I turned my eyes towards a bookstore beside me, towards a corner of it facing the aisle. 
Giving up immediately on following them, I made a change. To increase my distance from Satou and her group too, I decided to kill time here for a while. 
"This year's fashionable goods ranking, huh". 
From daily necessities to consumer electronics, it seems it's a ranking that includes a variety of familiar things like that. Whether or not this manufacturer's detergent is good or bad, details like that seem to be written down. 
Since I has caught my interest slightly, I took it into my hands and decided to look through it. 
" might be a good idea to just buy it and go back". 
The best cars merchandise summary in the appendix is unnecessary but since it's a bonus I'll just leave it be. 
Since I wasn't familiar with the consumer electronics section, it could be useful as reference when I have to buy such goods. For the time being, feeling like Satou and her group have left, I raised my head. 
However, for some reason, in my line of sight, Shinohara was standing around alone. It seems the other two have gone to the restroom since Shinohara seems like she's standing by alone in that spot. 
For a while longer, it seems like I'll have to rummage through the book. Since I've already taken the goods ranking book into my hands for purchase, I'll look through the other ones as well. 
There were quite a bit of customers in the bookstore but, I spotted someone who wasn't fitting in. Indeed, an individual whose behavior makes it seem as though he were about to do something bad. It was Ryuuen Kakeru. 
He's looking over at the academic books corner. Since I could not see anything except his back, I could not see his expression. 
"It doesn't suit him.......". 
He didn't have his entourage with him, and looking at his figure standing around alone, somehow it felt lonely. However, despite the fact that just yesterday, he was broken on that rooftop by my hands, for him to boldly go out like this on the very next day, I suppose it's as expected of him. 
It's worth it just by being able to confirm that Ryuuen is now going out like this. Even if he notices me, our relationship is not one where we can stand around and chat so for now I decided to not approach him. 
"Hey, you, you're a 1st year right?". 
"Weren't you looking at us just now with a glare?". 
"N-No. I've never.....I never meant to do that at all.....". 
As I was reading through the other books, I heard Shinohara's bewildered voice. As I raised my face from the magazine page, for some reason, a boy and girl pair that looked like they were senior students were glaring at Shinohara as though to box her in. I don't recall the girl but I remember the boy. He's a student from 3rd year Class D and right after enrollment, through the negotations I brought to the table, he was the student who sold us the answers to the past tests. I had heard that from amongst the 2nd year and 3rd year students, there have been quite a bit of expulsions but even as he ate a set meal of vegetables, he has continued on while avoiding expulsion up until today. 
The two senior students were wearing matching couple clothes. Casual clothes with polka dot stripes on them. 
On top of that, they were also standing at a distance where their arms were almost touching. There's almost no mistaking that they were lovers. 
"You were totally glaring at us. What's wrong is that you weren't looking forward when walking, isn't it?". 
"That's enough let's go already.....don't mind her". 
The boy doesn't seem to care much about it but his girlfriend seems to be pretty angry. 
"I cannot forgive this. For a mere 1st year, you're also Class D aren't you?". 
"That is, umm---true but.....but I, wasn't glaring......". 
"Don't you lie to me. Even though you were the one who bumped into us and got angry". 
Judging from the situation, it seems either one of them had not been paying attention to their front and their shoulders had bumped into each other, something along the lines of that. 
From the fact that neither of them had injuries or had fallen over, it was clear that their contact had not been such a strong one. 
"In the first place, you know~. Despite bumping into a senior student, what's with that attitude? Apologize". 
"B-but the one who wasn't looking ahead was.....". 
"Huh? By any chance, are you trying to say it's my fault?". 
Shinohara had been trying to assert her legitimacy, but it seems like she wasn't able to withstand the pressure from a senior student as she reluctantly bowed. 
" I'm very sorry". 
However, that reluctant attitude of hers was conveyed not only to me but to the senior student as well. The female senior student's fuse had already been lit but it ended up turning into an inferno. 
"Huh. Even if you apologize after taking an attitude like that, I can't feel any sincerity from you at all". 
"S-Sincerity......but the one who wasn't looking ahead was, I think, you senpai". 
It seems from Shinohara's perspective, before having glared at them or not, it was they who bumped into her. 
"Don't fuck around. You were the one who wasn't looking ahead, right?". 
"But that's". 
It seems from the claims of the senior student, the one who wasn't looking ahead when walking was Shinohara, or that's what she wants to say. It's contradicting Shinohara's own complaints. 
But what really happened would be known only to the people concerned as well as witnesses. It may be a situation where it's difficult for Shinohara to reach a resolution on her own. 
Perhaps it would be good of me to lend a helping hand. But since it's not like I also saw the moment of collision, it's not like I could judge the truth either......well it'll work out somehow. 
Right after I had thought that and thought to return the book to the shelf, the figure of a certain student could be seen. It seems he's noticed Shinohara being caught up in a problem as he approached her. 
Just in case, as I thought that and watched over them, that student called out to Shinohara. 
"What are you doing, Shinohara?". 
Ignoring the senior students, a classmate boy, Ike Kanji, called out to her like that. 
It wasn't an 'I'm saved' reaction. If I had to say, it seems like while she's in the midst of waiting for the storm to pass, yet another storm had come to her, Shinohara shows such a bewildered expression. 
Normally, Ike is the one bringing the trouble so it's understandable. 
"Who are you? Don't get in the way". 
Towards the sudden interruption, the female senior student snaps. 
"Ahh, no I'm sorry senpai. But, she's my classmate. Did she do something?". 
From her tone, it seems Ike has also grasped the situation. He may have been watching the situation from afar, just like me. 
"What, you mean? She bumped into us. And on top of that, she held a grudge and glared at us". 
"Ahh~ I get it, I get it. I get glared at often by her too". 
Giddily laughing, Ike points a finger at Shinohara. Shinohara must have been dissatisfied at that, but it seems she was unable to understand Ike's actions as she looked dumbfounded. 
"But, she always has this unpleasant look in her eyes so it makes it look like she's usually always glaring. She doesn't have the courage to glare at senpai, or more like, she was probably just born this way". 
Just like that, while mixing in Shinohara's bad traits, he tried to urge the seniors to bury the hatchet. He didn't touch on the matter with the collision, in other words, who was in the wrong. 
"And besides, I think it's better not to clumsily cause a ruckus. A teacher was here earlier". 
If they're found, trouble will spread like a fire. Like that, Ike cleverly made them listen. Above all else, the biggest point here is that he directed those words not to the girl, but to the boy. 
'You understand right?' is what he's saying with his gaze to the boyfriend's side and it looks like it's been effective. 
"......let's go already". 
Just when Christmas Eve is around the corner, and so he refrained. From the boy's side too, he would probably want to avoid further quarrel. From the perspective of the boyfriend who was against the dispute, it may have seemed like a chance to conclude this. The girl still seemed to be slightly dissatisfied but even so, it seems like her anger has more or less dissipated. 
Breathing out of his nose like that, the boy starts walking. Somehow they got through this, huh. After the two seniors had left, Shinohara too, breathed a sigh of relief. 
"Thank you.....". 
I had thought he would rejoice at having been thanked, but unexpectedly he took a cold attitude. 
"No's no big deal". 
He only replied with such short words to her. 
"But earlier, you said too much. It's not like I'm always glaring". 
"That was a just a way for me to help you". 
"Wasn't there a better way for that?". 
"I don't know, I'm telling you". 
".....well, umm......t-thank---". 
"S-See you. Enjoy your Christmas without a boyfriend!". 
"H-Huh!? Even if you had ten thousand years, you still wouldn't be able to find a girlfriend too!". 
For some reason, Ike decided to leave that verbal slip behind as parting words and tried to leave the place. 
It's probably because he spotted Satou and Matsushita returning from the restroom. However, naturally his departure would end up being seen by those two. Upon meeting back up with Shinohara, the two of them made a dubious face. 
"Hmm? That was Ike-kun just now, wasn't it? What happened?". 
"Did he bother you again? Why is our class filled to the brim with idiots?". 
"N-No, that's not it. You know". 
I had thought she would direct her anger towards those two but it seems Shinohara did not make a move to tell them about the incident. And then, quietly, Shinohara looked at the back of the leaving Ike. It seems the problem did not escalate, I should go back too. It doesn't seem like I would be able to pick up any information on Satou here. 
Part 6 
On my way back with the shopping bag containing the book in hand, I received a call. After confirming the name Hasebe Haruka being reflected on the liquid crystal display, I answered the call. 
"Ahh, it's me. It might be sudden but the day after tomorrow, why don't we all gather for a paripi?". 
"Ehh? Gather and do what?". 
My schedule for the day after tomorrow had already been decided but I inadvertently ended up asking about the word I had never heard before. 
"You don't know about paripi? Party people. In short, paripi". 
I hadn't realized such a new term had been born. No, in hindsight, I feel like I may have heard someone from our class utter it before. It probably means a gathering of party lovers making merry. 
"Christmas isn't only for lovers, would be the main theme for it". 
I see. It seems the influence of Christmas isn't limited to only couples. It's something that also affects singles in the surroundings too. 
"Sorry. I already have plans for the day after tomorrow". 
I did feel like it would be fun but here I have no choice but to decline. 
".......yeah? The day after tomorrow is Christmas though, what do you mean by that?". 
It's problematic even if she asks what I meant by that but if Haruka and the others will be playing outside that day too there is also the probability of being seen by them. It would be better if I told her about it honestly. 
"I ended up promising Satou I would play with her". 
"Satou? Do you mean Satou as in the sugar cube? Are you going to put them in your pocket for your outing?". (TLN: She mentions Satou as being a sugar cube because Satou can also mean sugar in Japanese. Think of the VA Satomi Satou and her nickname of Sugar) 
What kind of airhead is she. 
"Ehh? Ehh? What, could it be you're going out on a date with Satou-san? On Christmas?". 
I didn't even have to explain, naturally Haruka should have understood the meaning of it. However, I should correct her where correction is required. 
"It's not like it'll be a date. I'll just be out playing with her". 
"People all around the world refer to that as a 'date' though". 
That may be so, but as for me, I have no intention of using the word date for this. 
"I've declined her invitations many times in the past, so I was asked by Satou to go out on the 25th". 
"Nooo, no, no. This is bad, isn't it?". 
Of course, since I've enrolled in this school I've also learned about the thing known as society. It's not like I don't understand the meaning behind a boy and a girl going out together on Christmas at all. But the sole reason I accepted Satou's invitation regardless is simply because she chose the 25th as the date and nothing else. 
"I'm just confirming this with you but it's not like you're dating her, right?". 
"It's the same thing as that time with Shiina. I'm not going out with anyone". 
"That's right, I guess. Well, it's not my place to say anything know, Airi". 
"The day after tomorrow, if Kiyopon won't be joining us, I think she'll get curious about a variety of things. You can't hide it by feigning sickness either". 
I just have to tell her the truth then. It would be simple for me to just say that, but I can't do that. 
"I got it. I'll do something about it. The day after tomorrow, where will you be going?". 
"Does this mean you'll make your move based on my schedule?". 
"There's nothing else to do but that, right? If she happens to see Kiyopon and Satou-san going on a Christmas date, I think that girl might just faint". 
It's an exaggeration to say she'll faint, was what I had thought, but since it's Airi that might just happen to her. 
Depending on the circumstances, she may even lapse into a severe depression. 
As I thought that, on the other side of the phone, Haruka's demeanor changed. 
"Could it be, about Airi's've noticed?". 
Haruka asks me a question that hit close to the mark. 
"Leaving aside whether or not it's exactly as Haruka thought, I at least understand that her feelings towards me are slightly different from the feelings other people have towards me". 
"Tha~t is a slightly strange way to put it, but I see. It just means you're not that dense. Of course, since you understand that, I won't say anything unnecessary either". 
Unnecessary. In other words, 'aren't you going to answer Airi's feelings?', is what she's talking about. If you ask me, Airi is like a baby bird that has just begun to take its first steps on its own. 
Still in a state where it doesn't know a lot of other people, latching onto one of the few members of the opposite sex she's intimate with, in other words me, and directing her affections more or less towards me is something that cannot be helped. 
First off, she needs to spend more time together with a large number of males and females and amongst them, she needs to mature. 
By doing so, it may give rise to a feeling in her that's different from the romance she sees before her right now. That too, is something that can be said for me as well. What is school, what are friends, and what exactly does it mean to love someone. All these things I still don't understand very well, I cannot make an early decision yet. 
"In any case, I'll contact you again, ok?". 
"Sorry, for not being able to play with you guys". 
I apologized like that, but in response to that, Haruka immediately replied. 
"In the first place, we're a group that's gathered together to be outside such restrictions, right? If such restrictiveness were to be strangely strengthened it would cause our group to lose its forte. Gather when we like and decline when we're not feeling it. It's precisely because we're a group capable of doing so that gives it its charm". 
Answering like that, Haruka ends the call. 
"Certainly, that is true". 
If something like an obligation were to be born in regards to invitations, the forte of this group would be lost. I recognized that this is a group I should be thankful for. 


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