The atmosphere in the class after that was truly the worst.
Once the classes started, the tension would temporarily subside on the surface. However, during breaks, there would be a barrage of insults hurled at Rinto and Reina.
Each time, Todoroki and, unusually, the student council president, Tachibana, who had arrived late, tried to intervene, but Rinto and Reina remained unresponsive.
It wasn’t just the usual groups with a strong presence, like Sanada’s, who were against them. Even those with typically shy personalities, like Sudou, were trying to drive the two out.
Strangely enough, groups that wouldn’t normally interact with each other were uniting in their shared goal to expel Rinto and Reina.
At the center of it all was Sudou, who had been unnoticeable until today.
The intensity of the condemnation against Rinto and Reina was astonishing, especially when I compared it to the time I was wrongfully accused.
It was all wrong. I had certainly tried to get along with everyone as much as possible. Still, apart from Rinto and Reina, there were only a few people I could call friends.
I understood why Sanada and Aizawa’s friends were behaving this way. They probably felt some guilt and were trying to expel the two as a result.
But what about the others? They seemed to be enjoying the bullying as if it were a form of entertainment.
In fact, there were people grinning with glee here and there, relishing the chaotic situation. Some guys were trying to strike up conversations with cute girls during the confusion.
I wondered if the apologies from everyone after my false accusation had only been surface-level. Seeing the extent of this cruelty, it was hard not to think that way.
Moreover, it seemed like some were itching to find new targets for bullying during this chaos.
Of course, I didn’t intend to support Rinto and Reina in any way. To be honest, it would be a lie to say I didn’t feel a sense of ‘serves you right’ in this situation. If I were to be completely honest, I wished they’d suffer at least as much as I did.
But setting that aside, the atmosphere in this class was sickening. It felt like people were using my false accusation as a source of entertainment, and I couldn’t shake that feeling.
These were grudges I should have been the one to settle. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about others taking action.
So, what was I supposed to do? I had no obligation to intervene, and I certainly didn’t want to get involved with my classmates anymore. Well, I was curious about why Sudou was going to such lengths for my sake.
…No, wait, did he even really know me? If we were as close as it seemed for him to do all this for me, there’s no way I could have forgotten about him. And he spoke as if he knew about Mio too. However, even when I asked Mio, she seemed not to know much about Sudou.
Naturally, I tried asking Sudou himself, but he simply responded with, “It’s not a problem if you don’t remember,” and refused to tell me more.
“Hey, Yagami? Are you listening? As promised, tell us everything.”
“Huh? Oh, sorry. Right.”
It seemed like I had been lost in thought for quite a while, and I only snapped back to the conversation after several prompts from Todoroki. Looking at the clock, it was already lunchtime, much longer than the usual break between classes. This was probably the best time to talk.
First and foremost, I needed to explain the situation to Todoroki. I had to apologize for getting her involved, even though I was the victim. Sudou’s personality aside, if she had transferred here earlier, she might have made more friends, which made me feel even more responsible.
“Well, I don’t mind that, but… I want you to tell me what happened before I arrived.”
Todoroki was more serious than I had ever seen her. In response, I decided to explain everything honestly.
I told her about my relationship with Rinto, Reina, and Mio, the sudden betrayal by those two, the mistreatment by the entire school, and how it had strained my relationship with my family.
As we talked, Todoroki listened attentively without any hint of joking or levity. Occasionally, Mio and Tachibana provided additional details. I felt like I had managed to convey everything.
“So, Yagami, that’s why you’ve been so averse to the word ‘friends’… I can understand why after hearing all that.”
After finishing my story, Todoroki muttered something as if she had reached a realization.
As I watched her fall into contemplative silence, I noticed my heart was racing.
I still believed that people could easily betray others. I had no intention of changing my way of life, where I carefully distinguished between those who were important to me and those who weren’t. It was a way to minimize suffering and live more comfortably.
However, even from my current perspective, Todoroki seemed like a genuinely good person. She always approached me with pure intentions, wanting to be friends. I didn’t want to be disliked by her.
I hadn’t expected my resolve to be shaken so quickly, but Todoroki had become an important presence in my life, perhaps more important than I had initially thought.
Of course, I hadn’t openly admitted it yet, but I considered Todoroki a friend. She could be silly, clueless, and sometimes as demanding as a troublesome little brother.
But… Todoroki had an indescribable charm. I didn’t need new friends, or at least, that’s what I had thought. However, she made me believe that it would be okay if she became a part of my life.
As I hesitated to break the silence, Todoroki suddenly lifted her head and stood up abruptly.
“Ughhhhhhh! This is so annoying! It’s really pissing me off! Why can’t you just listen to me for a moment?! Isn’t it ridiculous to believe such things right away?! It’s so weird!!! Are you an idiot?!”
“Um, Todoroki-san? Your gaze is kind of intense…”
Out of nowhere, Todoroki started yelling, and the people around us couldn’t help but stare at her in surprise.
“Eh? Oh, sorry… But you know, I couldn’t help but yell.”
Saying that, Todoroki hugged both Mio and Tachibana tightly. Both of them were completely stunned by her unexpected actions.
“Thank you, Mio! Thanks for being on Yagami’s side! Aika, you’re blaming yourself too much! If you keep looking like that all the time, it’s rude to Yagami!”
After hugging them both, Todoroki looked straight at me as if to say, “Now it’s your turn,” and embraced me without any hesitation.
“It must have been tough… I won’t betray my friends! I’ll believe in you till the end. And even if my friends are wrong, I’ll make sure to set them straight. Got it? I think, for now, there’s nothing we can do. But bit by bit, okay? Please believe in me.”
Even in the midst of this suffocating hug, her words reached me clearly. It was because of her pure nature that I could tell she meant every word, even though her vocabulary was limited.
Despite her simplicity, she was straightforward, and her words felt warmer and more genuine than any elaborately crafted ones.
Being hugged by someone of the opposite sex other than my family, apart from Mio, was a first-time experience for me. Moreover, my girlfriend Mio and Tachibana were right there watching.
I knew in my head that I needed to free myself from this hug as soon as possible, but the warmth on my chest and Todoroki kindness made me surrender to the moment.
“Come on, Taiga! Don’t let your mustache grow too much. And… huh? Is it okay for Akane-chan to be that close to you?”
“Sorry, Mio! It’s not what you think!”
“Ah, I’m sorry too, Mio! Even though you’re Taiga’s girlfriend, I ended up hugging him…”
Mio, growing impatient with our reluctance to let go, forcefully separated us. I realized how embarrassing her actions had been. Tachibana, who had watched everything from up close, had a completely red face.
Mio was concerned about me having another attack, but after such a tight hug from Todoroki, my body showed no signs of any issues.
“It seems like everything’s okay!… I think.”
I assured her, and she let out a sigh of relief. However, her expression quickly turned gloomy. Well, who could blame her? It wasn’t a pleasant feeling to see your boyfriend touching other girls without any issues, especially when he would have an attack if it were her.
While I couldn’t control my own body, I wanted to convey that my heart belonged solely to Mio.
Feeling anxious, I decided to change the awkward atmosphere by making use of Todoroki.
Todoroki didn’t quite understand what I meant, but I went on.
“I mean, Todoroki isn’t a girl!”
“What!? Of course, I’m a girl! I’m totally a girl! You were so happy to bury your face in my chest!”
“That’s not it at all! Your strength was just overwhelming, and I couldn’t escape! You’re an idiot!”
“Liar! You’re such an idiot, Taiga! Pervert! Idiot!”
We ended up bickering like little kids, and Tachibana smiled gently at us. I hadn’t seen her smile like that in our class for a long time.
Without realizing it, Todoroki and I were making everyone around us smile. Maybe that’s Todoroki charm.
“Fufufu, you two really get along well.”
Talking to Todoroki always seemed to mess with my composure. But honestly, it wasn’t so bad. To be honest, Todoroki cheerfulness was saving me.
“Thank you, Todoroki.”
I naturally expressed my gratitude. Todoroki seemed momentarily confused about what I was thanking her for, but then she showed her usual innocent smile.
After that, Mio had a gloomy expression as she contemplated things throughout the lunch break. However, she brightened up when we made plans to go on a date together, just the two of us.