If I don’t do this…if I don’t do this, I’m going to be late!
The current time was 7:52 AM. I sprinted towards the nearest bus stop, dodging the countless cardboard boxes strewn around the house.
Why did this happen? I traced it back a few hours earlier.
Late at night, around 2 AM…
“…I should go to sleep soon.”
A few days ago, on my first day at this new school, I met a classmate named Suzune Ginro, who, like me, suffered from a severe trauma related to the opposite sex. Miraculously, we discovered that the effects of our traumas didn’t seem to affect each other, allowing us to communicate.
I never expected that I would be able to exchange LINE messages with a girl in this condition. At the time, I was somewhat carried away by it…
But I never anticipated that our LINE conversation would continue until 2 AM. I was completely unprepared for that.
Now, I was on my bed in a dark room, rubbing my tired eyes as I exchanged LINE messages with Suzune. I stayed up late like this to make sure I would fall asleep as soon as our conversation was over.
The room was filled with the merciless ticking of the clock’s second hand. Unfortunately, the clock’s hands refused to stop, and the time continued to pass—2:10 AM, 2:11 AM, slowly but surely.
It took more than 30 minutes by bus to get from my house to school. So, if I needed to wake up at 7 in the morning, staying up this late made it nearly impossible.
I really admired people who could function well on little sleep.
The notification sound coincided with my gaze shifting from the clock back to my smartphone.
[Kimisaki-kun, where do you live?]
[What a cute bear stamp icon.]
“The barrage of questions… it’s been going on for about two hours now.”
I really wanted to sleep for tomorrow’s sake. However, just like Suzune had shown an interest in me, I, too, had a considerable interest in her, whether it was as someone of the opposite sex or as a companion who understood my wounds.
I wasn’t sure which one it was, but I had genuine curiosity about her.
I unlocked my phone and replied.
“It’s near the Kamachi Station.”
“You mean where that bus stop is?”
“Yes, exactly! I usually take the bus from there to school!”
“Got it. Well, it’s getting late, and we have school tomorrow. I should probably get some sleep.”
“Oh, I understand. Goodnight!”
[A cute rabbit stamp that says goodnight]
I took a breath, inserted my phone into the charger next to my pillow, stretched a little, turned off the room light, and finally reached the long-awaited realm of sleep.
I closed my eyes, thoughts drifting towards the world of dreams.
“I can’t sleep.”
I jumped up energetically and shouted,
“I can’t sleeeeeep!!!”
With a howl reminiscent of a werewolf awakening under the full moon, gasping for breath.
“What time is it now?”
I checked my smartphone, and there it was, displaying “4:25 AM.”
“Two hours have passed just with my eyes closed…”
Without noticing, I had spent more than two hours in bed. It’s a common experience for many people, the phenomenon of being unable to sleep after thinking about strange things and then suddenly realizing that a significant amount of time has passed. That’s what was happening to me now.
On the first day of transferring schools or the night before a class change, I often couldn’t sleep. It’s a classic case.
In my case, I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about Ginro-san, Yuji, and others, as well as my upcoming school life.
Also, this time, I had been using LINE until just before going to sleep, which probably contributed to my insomnia. The fact that I had been exposed to the bright blue light from the screen until late at night certainly didn’t help.
“Damn… what should I do?”
I tried to calm down and slipped back under the covers.
[Don’t think about anything… naturally, just naturally fall asleep…]
I attempted to clear my mind completely, to experience that void of thought.
A-alright, it’s working. I can feel my consciousness drifting away…
Keep going… Keep going…
And so, the story returns to the present.
Well, you probably already know the outcome.
Yes, I overslept.
Well, come to think of it, it would have been strange not to oversleep with this little sleep. I could even accept it without too much despair when I saw the time on the clock in the morning.
However, I absolutely didn’t want to be late.
It hadn’t even been a week since I transferred to this school. Being late would make me look pretty irresponsible, I thought. Avoiding that was a must.
Being thought of as ‘irresponsible’ was something I really didn’t want. In my personal “I Don’t Want to Be Thought of As” ranking, it was second only to “uncleanliness.” That’s because I strongly believed that there were no decent people among the irresponsible, just as I believed there were no clean people among the unclean.
By the way, first place in that ranking was “uncleanliness.”
There were so many hills in this town, so it felt like pure harassment to someone like me who hadn’t done any serious exercise since quitting the tennis club in middle school. Plus, with the current condition of having just woken up, my energy was running out before I even reached the bus stop.
Was it just my imagination? For a moment, I heard Ginro-san’s voice.
Hey, hey, did I finally start hearing hallucinations? It seemed like I was already in the late stages…
It wasn’t a hallucination after all. When I realized it, Ginzou-san, the embodiment of beauty, was standing right in front of me.
Why was Ginro-san here?
If I remembered correctly, the house I heard about from her yesterday was near the school, in the opposite direction from here…
“The bus will arrive in 5 minutes, so you don’t have to run. You’ll make it in time.”
“…Oh, by any chance, did you oversleep because we exchanged messages late into the night?”
Ginro-san raised an eyebrow and looked at me apologetically.
Well, that might indeed be one reason, but the main reason for oversleeping was not being able to fall asleep afterward, and I didn’t want Ginro-san to feel guilty about it.
Alright, let’s smoothly divert this.
“Ah! No, it’s not like that! I just got a bit lazy this morning and ended up running late.”
“Is that so? Well, that’s a relief…”
“Yeah. By the way, Ginro-san, why are you here?”
“Why? Because you said you live around here, Kimisaki-kun.”
Ginro-san said it so matter-of-factly, but who would just come to pick someone up the day after being told the nearest station by a friend? At least, in my fifteen years of life, no one had ever done that. And going out of one’s way to pick someone up in the limited morning hours was even more unusual.
I felt a deep sense of apology.
“…I’m sorry, Ginro-san, for making you come all the way here.”
“Hmm? Why are you apologizing, Kimisaki-kun?”
“…? I just wanted to talk to you, Kimisaki-kun.”
Suddenly, an arrow pierced my heart.
S-she just wanted to talk… that’s all…
Are you serious…?
T-this is too cute…
It feels like being served curry rice for breakfast… It’s calorie overload… Ugh.
Seeing Ginro-san’s overwhelming beauty, I couldn’t help but cover my face with my hands and writhe in ecstasy, and she, looking puzzled at my reaction, was adorable once again. Even for someone like me, who usually doesn’t have feelings like ‘cute’ or ‘beautiful’ towards women, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed.
She’s amazing… Ginro-san…
Ginro-san and I sat together in the back seats of the bus.
The fact that I was sitting next to Ginro-san was indeed one of the reasons for my nervousness, but it was also because I had hardly spoken to any women other than my childhood friend and four sisters.
As we sat next to each other, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly self-conscious. Sweat began to pour down my forehead, and it wasn’t the elegant kind of sweat but rather the messy, nervous kind.
Despite having anticipated this, it was still a nerve-wracking experience.
And as we sat there, the bus ride was eerily quiet. The silence was suffocating, and I felt the pressure to say something. But what could I say? My brain felt foggy from the lack of sleep, and I was afraid I might blurt out something strange. What should I do—-
As I was struggling with this question in my mind, Ginro-san opened her mouth.
I felt saved inside, but don’t tell anyone that.
It felt like a lifeline had been thrown to me.
“I guess it’s really okay, right?”
“Sitting next to you, Kimisaki-kun, and even being so close that our shoulders touch, nothing happens.”
“Come to think of it…”
I hadn’t realized it until now, since it had just been me and Ginro-san without anyone else around in the morning, but whenever I see a woman, my heart starts pounding intensely. Ginro-san seemed to be experiencing the same thing.
“I was saved because you were here… Thank you.”
“I… I’m glad Ginro-san was here too.”
“Fufu, how many times have we had this conversation?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Ginro-san smiled, and I thought she was more beautiful than anyone in the world.
[The next station is Ouzakura High School.]
“Oh, it’s already the next one.”
“Surprisingly fast, isn’t it?”
Fun times always end quickly, and the next station was our school’s nearest one.
“I wish we could talk more.”
Ginro-san pressed the button for the next station with incredible force. Since she was sitting on the aisle side and not the window side, she leaned over towards me to press the button, so our bodies were in extremely close proximity.
“Fufufu, I… I like pressing this button.”
“Ah, I see…”
…Just in this morning, I felt like I learned several times more about Ginro-san than I did throughout the late night texting yesterday.
Cling Clang Cling Clang
The chime signaling lunchtime was like a fanfare for us, breaking the chain of classes that had bound us.
“Time for lunch!”
“Ugh, I’m so hungry.”
Everyone raised their voices as they pleased. This was a privilege allowed during the lunch break when we were free from the chains of class.
People grouped up with their friends, taking out lunch boxes and convenience store onigiri.
I wanted to join in for lunch, but I had a lingering concern from yesterday.
“Yuran, let’s grab some food!”
“Sorry, I have something to take care of!”
“Oh, I see. Well, I’ll go ahead then.”
“Sorry about that!”
I declined Yuji’s invitation and left the classroom. I descended the long staircase and headed towards the schoolyard.
The schoolyard was of typical high school size, with a soccer goal and a track that the track and field team probably used.
Our high school seemed to have a strong soccer team, and even during lunch break, they were putting in effort with their practice.
The reason I was heading to the schoolyard, despite not being part of any sports club, was a flowerbed in the corner.
In this flowerbed, there were various flowers like Erica carnea, Heuchera, hellebore, sweet alyssum, pansies, primula juliana, and more.
While the flowers were extravagant, their care had been completely neglected. Weeds were running rampant, and it seemed like they weren’t getting enough water either, as the flowers were wilting.
“It’s so sad to see these beautiful flowers left like this… I should take care of them.”
I had grown up surrounded by flowers since I was born. Before being taken in by the Kimisaki family, my parents used to run a flower shop.
It had been nearly ten years since my parents passed away, and I hardly remembered any memories with them. However, whether it was because I was born as the son of florists or because I had spent my early childhood surrounded by flowers, they were always deep within my heart.
Because of that, I felt a stronger connection to flowers than most people, and I made an extra effort to care for them.
I used to send flowers to the Kimisaki family’s parents, my younger sisters… and my older sister on their birthdays.
Lunch break was only 40 minutes, so it was a race against time to see how much I could do. All right, let’s do this!
Cling Clang Cling Clang
The relentless chime signaling the end of lunch break echoed mercilessly. It marked the conclusion of my work on the flowerbed.
“Well, I didn’t even finish half of it…”
It was frustrating, but I couldn’t afford to be late for class, and I could always finish what I hadn’t completed tomorrow. After spending a long time bending over, I smacked my aching back and stood up.
“Climbing these stairs is such a drag, isn’t it!?”
As I turned around, there stood Ginro-san.
“W-Why are you here?”
“From the classroom… I saw Kimisaki-kun… taking care of the flowerbed.”
“You saw it… from here?”
“Ah… and also…”
Ginro-san was holding my lunchbox.
“I forgot this, so I thought I’d bring it to you… But you seemed so focused…”
This was the worst. When I was concentrated, I became oblivious to my surroundings. Ginro-san had probably been standing here for a while.
“I’m sorry! I really didn’t notice at all!”
“Don’t worry about it. It was my own choice.”
“I thought… it was beautiful.”
“Even though nobody takes care of this neglected flowerbed… and nobody would praise you for it… You were working diligently without anyone watching, without anyone knowing…”
“To the extent of skipping lunch break… to do what you wanted to do, I thought it was beautiful.”
“I think I’m starting to like the way I look at you.”
“Well, class is about to start… so I’ll leave your lunchbox here for now.”
Ginro-san disappeared into the school building, running lightly.
I stood frozen in place for a while, my mind filled with the shocking words she had just spoken.
“Like… liking to look me? What does that even meaaaaaaaaaaaaan!”
My voice echoed in the now empty schoolyard.