My name is Noguchi Natsuko. I’m just an ordinary high school girl with no particularly standout features. Currently, in my class, we’re in the process of deciding what our class activity will be for the upcoming cultural festival. It seems that each class needs to come up with at least one activity, such as setting up a booth.
Beforehand, a male and a female student raised their hands and proposed their ideas for activities or performances, and then the whole class votes to decide the content of the cultural festival.
“Maybe a maid cafe!”
“How about a butler cafe just for Kimchika-kun and Maguro-kun?”
“Should we go with a romantic drama like you often see in manga?”
The boys and girls were exchanging their opinions, and eventually, a compromise was reached – a combination of a maid cafe and a butler cafe. Personally, I found it a bit embarrassing… so I wanted to refrain from participating.
“Hey, Gindou-san. What do you think about the maid cafe?”
“It’s a little embarrassing, but it’s for the cultural festival, so I’ll do my best.”
“The cultural festival… I guess I’ll give it my all to make some good memories.”
“Let’s definitely take photos together in maid outfits.”
“Sure, then we can also edit the pictures to make our skin look whiter.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary for you, Natsuko-san.”
“Just in case, though.”
Afterwards, the discussion moved to topics like the interior design of the shop and expenses. We smoothly wrapped up the meeting as the teacher left the classroom. With the teacher gone, I started playing with my phone.
“What are you looking at, Natsuko-san?”
“Hmm? An article about magical girls.”
“Ah, i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-is that so!?”
“Why are you suddenly acting like that?”
“N-No, it’s nothing… Um, Natsuko-san, who do you like the most among the magical girls?”
“Well, this dark-haired one seems nice, don’t you think? He’s the only guy, but he gives off this feeling of trying his best.”
“I totally agree! He’s great. This person!”
She seemed flustered and happy, quite busy with her emotions. I wondered what was going on… Ah, that’s right. I had something I wanted to give her.
“Speaking of which, I have this for you, Gindou-san.”
I handed her five free coupons for cakes from a certain cake shop. This cake shop has been gaining popularity among high school girls lately, with its cakes being shared all over social media. She seemed to know about it and widened her eyes.
“Are you sure!?”
“Yeah, I won them in a contest. I’m on a diet right now, so use them well.”
“Then…I will take it gladly!”
She drank down the cake coupon with great delight. Oh, right, she was concerned about her weight… Well, never mind.
Watching her happily in her bubble of joy, I decided not to overthink it.
In our class, we are currently deciding on our cultural festival performance. Somehow, things seem to be progressing more smoothly than usual. In 2A class, some of the boys are goofing around, and there’s also Moegi, who sits in the back.
She’s been absent-minded for a while now. I wonder what’s wrong. The meeting continues calmly, and in our class, we’ve decided to do a Cinderella play.
“Hey, Moegi, what’s up?”
Fuyumi, who sits behind Moegi, asks. Both Fuyumi and Moegi seem to have noticed the change in the atmosphere.
“I’ve been wondering why you’ve been so absentminded.”
“Was about the casting for the play?”
The roles for Cinderella include maids, common soldiers, the wicked stepsister, the prince, and more. It’s based on who wants to do what role and then determined by a game of rock-paper-scissors.
The former class president asks for opinions from the class.
“Now, who wants to play Cinderella?”
Hmm, I don’t particularly want a role, and Cinderella is the main character, which seems like a lot of work, so I’m thinking of passing.
But suddenly, someone raises their hand energetically from behind.
Aoi raised her hand. She sits in the farthest corner from me, the complete opposite end of the classroom. But I can hear the sound of her hand cutting through the air.
Her hand going up surprises everyone. Aoi had a reputation for being quiet, and no one expected her to want the lead role. I wasn’t too surprised; she did mention that she liked Cinderella, so I assumed she’d want that role.
“Um, then Aoi-san for… Well then, let’s go with the role of Cinderella. Next, for the role of the prince…”
Aoi is one of the few people who talks to me, Moegi, or Fuyumi, so the role of the prince may be daunting for her. I was considering volunteering to ease the pressure on her when someone else from behind raised their hand.
“Let’s see, if Aoi is playing …… then I’ll play the prince this time ……”
Moegi, who had seemed absent-minded just moments ago, raised her hand. Moegi must have had the same thought as me. She’s always been kind like that.
Afterward, the casting was settled, and I ended up with the role of the prince’s maid.
We were called together by Kohaku-chan after school. The plan was to go eat cake together. The atmosphere around us was filled with an incredibly trendy vibe, to put it in current terms, radiating from the girls. When we entered the cake shop, we received quite a lot of attention. Was it because Kohaku-chan, Karen-chan, and Aoi-chan are all cute? Well, maybe it’s because among us, there’s only one guy, making this combination unusual.
As we sat down in the shop, I took a seat diagonally in front of him. The atmosphere was filled with couples, social butterflies, and the upper echelons of the school caste system. Many high school girls were taking photos on their phones.
We were a group of five, but Aoi-chan and Karen-chan seemed nervous, and their faces were stiff. On the other hand, Kohaku-chan seemed excited.
“Is something wrong, everyone? You all look so tense…”
She seemed to have noticed that the three of them had stiff expressions.
“I can’t make eye contact with these people… the school caste, the social butterflies… It’s so different from what I’m used to…”
“Are you okay?”
Aoi-chan covered her face with her hands.
“Something… it feels weird. I’m usually an indoors type… I spend my time facing my computer, watching anime, and the only time I go outside is to buy manga or light novels…”
“Yeah. It’s like that feeling when you accidentally buy the same volume of manga or light novel twice, and you get all jittery and, well, unsettled.”
Karen-chan also seemed unfamiliar with this kind of place.
“I just feel completely out of place here… that’s all.”
“Izayoi-kun… Everyone, I’m sorry… It’s because of my selfishness…”
Having noticed the three’s uncomfortable expressions, Kohaku-chan asked.
“I’m sorry… It’s because of my selfishness that I caused this…”
Her words made all three of them feel a sudden realization. Especially him; upon hearing her somewhat sad voice, his expression changed to one of determination, and he continued to face her.
“I’m the one who should be sorry for making you all feel uneasy. I was really happy when Kohaku-san suggested that we all go out for some delicious cake together! The feeling of being out of place is just a slight misunderstanding! Hiren-senpai isn’t uncomfortable; he’s just a bit nervous, and Aoi-senpai is feeling some jitters too, but deep down, I’m sure everyone is excited to be here together! Right! Moegi-senpai must be thrilled too, right!? So, let’s all say thank you together!! Thank you for inviting us!!”
When it’s for her sake, he can forcefully change his own feelings. He’s not lying, but he can immediately set aside his selfish emotions and genuinely consider the other person’s feelings as if they were his own. It’s a form of strength. In the truest sense, he’s strong. And it’s easy to see. There’s love there. A precious, radiant, and warm love that won’t lose to anything.
That’s her hope. An absolute light.
“That’s right… It’s just a bit uncomfortable, so it’s perfectly fine. Besides, even if you accidentally buy the same volume twice, you can always keep one as a backup.”
“I’ll admit, it’s actually kind of fun. But… when there are normies around, I can’t help it… But I’m excited, so there’s no problem.”
“I’m having fun too, so no problem at all.”
With the breeze he created, the atmosphere quickly changed. She felt the love and couldn’t help but smile.
“Is that so? Ehehe, that’s a relief then. Thank you very much.”
As this slightly emotional scene unfolded, the cakes arrived. Kohaku-chan had Mont Blanc, Karen-chan had Strawberry Shortcake, Aoi-chan had Matcha Roll Cake, I had Cheesecake, and he had Chocolate Cake.
In this pleasant ambiance, everyone started enjoying their cakes.
“Indeed, it’s really good.”
“The richness of the cheesecake is amazing.”
Each of us continued eating our cakes. It was a moment of bliss. Particularly, Kohaku-chan’s expression seemed to radiate the most happiness.
After just a few bites, she playfully turned to him, locking eyes.
“Your chocolate cake looks so delicious, Izayoi-kun…”
“Would you like some?”
“Eh? Are you sure?”
She opened her mouth. It was a bit staged… and adorable. Not just us, but the other customers around were also saying “cute, cute” in unison.
“H-Here you go.”
“Ah~ ♪ Fufu, it’s sweet and delicious. Alright, now it’s my turn.”
It was sweet. And there we were, doing the “aah” exchange…
“Excuse me, could we have four black coffees?”
“Make that eight over here.”
“And we’ll have sixteen, please.”
The orders for black coffee kept multiplying, but then Karen-chan suddenly got angry. Despite her slightly embarrassed but resolute gaze, she turned to him.
“Wha! I-I’ll give you some of my Strawberry Shortcake’s strawberries!!”
“Are you serious!? The ones on top of the cake!?”
“It’s okay! Come on, ‘aah’!!”
“Thank you. ‘Aah.’ Well then, I’ll give you these weird but stylish chocolate notes on top of my chocolate cake!”
“G-Give and take, right? So, ‘aah.’ Mm, it’s sweet.”
She might not express her joy openly with strong words, but her lips were trembling. Her facial muscles were trying to maintain her composure, but the excitement kept making them twitch.
“Can I order just black coffee beans?”
“Can we get black coffee without water or milk added?”
“I’d like black coffee beans, straight.”
It seemed like everyone around us was eager for the bitterness. When Karen-chan offered her strawberry, Kohaku-chan got competitive too because she hadn’t offered any chestnuts from her Mont Blanc.
“Izayoi-kun, please eat my chestnuts!”
Something about that sounded quite obscene… No, it was just my dirty mind.
“Now, please savor my chestnut!”
“But I’ve already received something in return…”
“It’s alright! Please!”
“Well, then, I-I’ll raise the cream-rich part!”
They engaged in a fierce ‘aah’ showdown. Right now, the only thing both of them could see was competing with him. Although it might appear that they didn’t get along, we knew it wasn’t the case. Aoi-chan watched them with envy. She took a bite-sized portion on her fork and, after a brief pause, ate it herself.
We all continued to enjoy our cakes together. At that moment, Aoi-chan and I barely managed to leave a small portion of our cakes untouched. But, beyond that, we didn’t do anything else.
…I wish I had done something. A slight feeling of regret crept in. I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eye, not even for a moment. Even when we were eating cake, I made sure never to make eye contact. If it happened accidentally, I’d discreetly look away, or else the temperature would skyrocket.
After some contemplation, I decided to discard these thoughts that didn’t feel like me at all.
After finishing the cake, we decided to head home. However, today I was in charge of grocery shopping, so I needed to go to the supermarket next.
“Eh? Aoi-chan, are you sure you’re okay by yourself?”
“Yeah, I can handle shopping on my own.”
“Are you sure you don’t want company? Carrying all those bags alone can be tough.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Should I go with you?”
“Yeah, that’s okay. You two have chores to do at home, right?”
Although they were kind enough to offer, today I was responsible for cooking dinner, and I could manage the shopping on my own. Plus, everyone had their own tasks to take care of at home.
“Ah, speaking of, eggs were on sale today… A pack for 98 yen, limit two per person. Sorry, but I think I’d like someone to come with me after all.”
“I don’t have anything to do today, so I’ll carry your bags for you!”
“Are you sure?”
“Alright then, thank you!”
So, the three of them headed home while I went to the supermarket with him. He pushed the cart while I walked beside him, initially choosing vegetables. I carefully examined the stems and colors of the vegetables as I picked them.
“Do you have any favorite vegetables?”
“Well… I pretty much like all of them.”
Next, we went to the meat section. There was no particular reason, but we bought a good amount of chicken thighs and ground meat.
“How about making fried chicken…?”
“Sure, please do.”
I placed a carton of eggs in the cart without saying anything interesting, and we continued shopping smoothly. Nothing dramatic happened; we just kept moving forward. Strangely, it felt good. But it also felt somewhat lacking.
I want something like the two of them.
After we finished shopping and left the store, I inadvertently voiced my thoughts.
“Hey, how about going to the batting center? I want to move my body.”
“It’s still bright out. But if you don’t want to…”
“No, let’s go!”
We needed to go home, but I felt like doing something a little bad. When we arrived at the batting center, I immediately inserted coins and started hitting the balls.
I met the 120 km/h pitches solidly and hit line drives that would land in the center field.
“This is still pretty easy…”
I once hit 140 km/h, so this felt a bit unsatisfying. I thought it was just warming up. But being praised made me feel warm and fuzzy.
A full swing produced a metallic sound echoing within the center. I was here because I wanted to grasp something, but I wondered if I could obtain it by hitting baseballs. The truth was, I didn’t even know what I wanted in the first place.
“By the way, you’re playing the role of Cinderella, right?”
We continued our conversation while hitting balls. The ball soared with a “ka-ching.”
“Well, let’s practice like crazy! I’ll help you! We’ll make it a big success!”
It felt like he was more determined than me, but of course, I was also determined. None of them probably thought I would take on the role of Cinderella. However, I wanted to. There was only one reason why.
I wanted to see what it was like to become a princess. I didn’t believe in real princes, and I knew that being a real princess would be unfamiliar. But even so, I wanted to become one, even if it was just a role, or to put it more negatively, even if it was fake.
I shouldn’t be thinking about it now. Well, I’m not sure what I should be thinking about right now…
“Kyaa, I can’t hit anything.”
“Well, it can’t be helped. Let me show you.”
I slightly turned my gaze toward the voices of a man and a woman next to me. The man and woman were holding the bat together, hitting the ball, and flirting with each other. I think it’s dangerous for them both to be in the same batter’s box…
“Yay, I hit it!”
My bat swung through the air for the first time.
It was unconscious. Probably, the next ball might also go flying. Furthermore, maybe the one after that, and after that. But with that, my turn ended.
I took off the helmet and walked outside.
“Well, it’s normal. Do you want to give it a try?”
Although I felt quite unsatisfied, let’s leave it aside for now. I shouldn’t just enjoy it by myself since he was accompanying me. He selected 140, probably because I chose 120.
“Fufu, I can hit without expending too much magic.”
He put on the helmet, raised the bat with confidence, and declared a home run. However… the bat swung through the air.
“I can’t believe it… Is there a hole in the bat?”
“It’s not broken.”
After that, he couldn’t hit a single ball and returned.
“It’s quite challenging.”
“Your form is bad.”
“You should, like, close your armpits more, and stop lifting your leg so high each time. Your timing is completely off. In fact, you don’t need to lift it so high; it’s better to just keep it still. You pull the bat too far back; try to hit it more compactly.”
“Wait a minute, please. I’ll write it down in the notes on my phone.”
He tried to take out his smartphone, but this kind of thing… is better learned through your body. Most likely, definitely. So, I went behind him and held his hand to teach him the compact swing directly.
“Eh ah eeehhhhh!?”
“I’ll make you learn it with your body.”
“Well, no, it’s nothing.”
“Relax more; you’re too tense.”
“No, that’s because… It’s hitting me.”
“No, it’s not good!”
“For now, it’s more important to learn through your body.”
“Clearly, your body is more important!”
He said a lot of things, so in the end, I just gave him verbal instructions. Come to think of it, my mother used to say that you shouldn’t recklessly expose or make others savor a woman’s skin… I understood the first part, but what does she mean by making others savor it?
After that we decided to go home as it was getting dark with his form improvement. On the way home, I apologized to him.
“I’m sorry… I got a bit carried away. I pushed you to come, and then I ended up sounding all high and mighty…”
“No, it was fun, and you didn’t sound high and mighty at all. It’s okay.”
“I see, thanks… How about doing it together again sometime?”
“Yes. I’m in!”
He couldn’t grasp anything concrete today. However, I felt like he had captured a small fragment of something.