“So, you know, I got paid from the commercial Yuki invited me to. That’s why I’m thinking of giving everyone a pair of sneakers as a present. What do you think?”
After using up our energy, we take a break and eat grilled squid at the beach house.
According to Shiori, the girls from the swim team have reserved the sneakers. However, Shiori is grateful for being warmly accepted as someone who joined in the middle of things. That’s why she thought of giving sneakers as a present.
How Shiori uses the money is up to her. It’s not my place to interfere. But even so, I deliberately put a hold on it. The second edition hasn’t been announced yet, but Shiori should be fine with it.
“Shiori, this is still a secret, but wait a little longer.”
“Um… Is there something?”
She looks puzzled, but it should be something meaningful.
“In a while, the second edition will be announced. This time, there will be a Goddess Model and Saint Model.”
“Variations have increased without me noticing!?”
“If you’re going to give a present, I thought having multiple design options to choose from would be nice.”
The Bunnyman and Hero Party Model sneakers seem to be pre-ordering really well. During a meeting, I accidentally mentioned that there are other Goddess and Saint models at Hoshikawa High School, and in no time, the second edition was decided. They might release a Bard Model eventually.
While I’m witnessing the serious efforts of adults who don’t miss a business opportunity, isn’t this all about basketball anymore?
“Goddess and Saint… Even though everyone’s saying such nice things, I’m the only one with the Dancer, ugh…”
I firmly grab both of Shiori’s shoulders while she’s looking down, her face turning completely red.
“Eh, isn’t this the same pattern as before…”
“Your outfit has the most exposure. Have confidence!”
The only female member in the Hero Party isn’t you.
“The dignity of a maiden has been forcibly restored!”
With four different models for women, there should be options that suit each person’s taste.
If you’re giving a gift, you want the recipient to be happy, right?
But how do I explain this to Tojo-senpai and Goddess-senpai…
My powerful spike pierces the sandy beach. A resounding cheer erupts.
“Hihihi… Oooh… gods…”
Shakado is praying. She’s completely out of the competition.
We’re having a serious showdown in a beach volleyball match titled ‘1st Year Class B’s Midsummer Serious Battle’.
For the sake of fairness, we’re paired by gender, and teams from the same sports clubs are not allowed to pair up. If I or fresh, handsome guy and Shiori were paired, there would be no team that could win. It was an appropriate consideration.
So, Shakado and I, the fresh handsome guy whose face is blending with the sandy beach due to his blinding handsomeness, formed a pair with Mineda. The soccer club’s Takahashi, with his pleasant vibes, paired with Natsume, Shiori teamed up with Akanuma, Hinagi with Ito, and Elizabeth paired up with Mikuriya, creating an exquisite balance for an intense match.
Especially whenever Shiori gets active, cheers fill the air, and the gallery keeps growing. Coins are jingling in the donation box subtly placed there. Thanks to Shiori’s efforts, it seems we’ll gather enough money for everyone’s lunch. Thank you, Shiori, I won’t forget your heroic efforts. Boing boing.
Shiori is clearly the winner of Miss Overlap at this beach. Congratulations!
“To think that the champions would be Seidou and Elizabeth… Both of you used to be in the volleyball club in the past? Our investigation was lacking. Surprising facts have come to light.”
“Essentially, it was 1 vs 2… I didn’t… do anything… hihihi… sorry.”
“That’s right. As a punishment, Shakado, you have to go to a beauty salon during the summer break.”
“Even sheep get their wool sheared before summer. Besides, it’s a given that you’ll turn into a beauty after cutting your hair.”
Aside from Shakado, who seems to be frozen in shock despite it being summer, Sakurai’s energy levels are high.
“To think I could beat Yukito!”
“Fufufmm~ How’s that for a sight! This is the dignity of a student council president!”
Just the other day, Mikuya, who joined the basketball club, and Elizabeth, who was in the light music club, apparently belonged to different middle school volleyball clubs. Knowing about each other’s pasts is proof of deepening interactions.”
“Yes. Here’s the prize money.”
“Kokonoe-kun, I don’t think there’s any romance or comedy left in this situation.”
I give out the collected tips as the prize money, but Elizabeth isn’t pleased.
“Getting cash as a Christmas present is the best. A ten-thousand yen bill full of socks.”
“You’re such an ungrateful kid! By the way, what’s with this money?”
“Shiori earned it with her body.”
“Did Yuki just suddenly say something so indecent!?”
White stares from around. I’ve only spoken the truth…
Oh, I see. So, it’s because the amount is small, huh?
It can’t be helped. I don’t feel comfortable letting Shiori earn money all the time. I’m not a pimp.
In that case, let me take care of this.
I casually take out a watermelon and place it on a sheet. The gallery’s attention is drawn.
I punch it down vertically, and the watermelon cleanly splits into six pieces.
Applause erupts. Tips start coming in… looks like we’re going for a lavish dinner.
“Kokonoe-kun, how did you do that!?”
I quietly tell Elizabeth the trick to splitting the watermelon while she’s flustered.
“For watermelon splitting, if you make cuts beforehand, it’ll split cleanly. Then, evenly apply pressure over the whole surface, and you get this result. I didn’t have a wooden sword with me, after all.”
While I brought the watermelon, I forgot to bring the essential tool to split it. Not having a wooden sword or bat might have been better, as they would’ve been cumbersome to carry.
Oh, I should probably mention this.
“*The split watermelon was enjoyed by the staff.”
“Well, it’s Kokonoe-kun we’re talking about. Anything goes. We have the prize money, so how about having lunch soon?”
In this way, swaying gently with the waves, my own thoughts begin to seem terribly insignificant.
Lately, nothing seems to go well. Maybe I’ve been abandoned by luck.
I tried plotting together with them, but it’s hard to say we’ve succeeded. Rather than being trapped, they’re becoming more confident. No matter how much I curse them, reality doesn’t change.
Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten involved. This is so frustrating. And that person they pushed onto me, too.
Are they planning to ruin my life again? This feeling of nothing going well is something I haven’t felt in a while.
An uncomfortable feeling, just like back in elementary school… I remembered something unpleasant.
Even though we came to enjoy a family beach outing, it’s all ruined. I strike the water’s surface in frustration.
I doubt anyone realizes it’s me. It’s alright. I’ll convince myself of that, but the unease doesn’t dissipate. Why do I have to take such risks?
I’m stuck in the same loop without an answer again. Maybe I should just lay it all out…
Impossible. That man doesn’t forgive his enemies. He crushed me that way. Both him and me.
I didn’t realize that keeping a secret could be so mentally exhausting.
Constantly worried about getting caught, I can’t even enjoy my school life properly.
Being just an incompetent who follows orders, I don’t understand his scariness. If I’m in the same school, it will become clear. He’s truly untouchable. Unwanted topics keep reaching my ears daily.
There’s no way I can directly attack him. I have no allies. Even if I asked the upperclassmen for help, I doubt anyone would cooperate.
Rather, if a student approached with such a topic, there’s a high chance they’d report it to him.
For some reason, that guy isn’t alone. Annoyingly enough, he’s well-liked by many.
Teachers and upperclassmen don’t matter. Everyone is concerned about his movements, protecting him.
If I were to oppose him, it’s me who would be isolated. Especially if my elder sister, who values him highly, were to find out, I don’t know what would happen. Unlike him, she’d be serious about removing me.
Truly a dead end. A miserable situation. And all of this was my own doing.
“I shouldn’t have reunited with Kazu…”
Regret is never-ending. The gears started to grind out of place after I reconnected with him in the new school.
Thinking it’s just fellow locals, I got close to him in delight, and that marked the beginning of my mistake.
Even though I transferred and should have distanced myself in high school, I became a target of his attention due to him standing out. While I’m suffering this much, people around him are always smiling. There’s always someone beside him, laughing.
Why is he always having fun while I’m all alone?! I can’t suppress my frustration.
Nervous and careful, I maintained surface-level relationships, and now I’m all alone.
If I hold dissatisfaction and turn hostile, he senses it keenly, and people distance themselves further, creating a vicious cycle.
I snap back to reality. The shoreline looks quite far away. I try to turn back, but unexpectedly, the waves are strong, and I can’t move forward as much as I’d like. A deep fear bubbles up from within me. I quickly adjust my posture. However, contrary to my intentions, my body doesn’t respond.
“No way… This can’t be happening! It’s dangerous! Someone, help—gobo-gobo.”
As I try to shout without concern for my dignity, seawater enters my mouth. Coughing, my left leg cramps.
(Why… Why is it just me ending up like this? Am I going to die? In a place like this… I still have so much I want to do!)
If this is the punishment for belittling others, then there’s undoubtedly a higher power.
Thinking such things belatedly, tears overflow. Looking back, I’ve only resented people. Hated them. Letting my hatred for him fester, blaming everything on him. And, I committed a sin.
(No… It wasn’t me at first… It was him. It’s because I met him—!)
At first, I understood it. That I was at fault. But as we started exchanging bad words, my thoughts gradually twisted, changed. I drowned in malice.
I’ve never even been in love. Never liked someone, let alone anything beyond that.
Perhaps my intense yearning for beautiful things stems from my own overwhelming ugliness.
“Damn it… Help me, please! I’ll apologize… I’ll change, please, someone—”
My voice doesn’t reach anyone. Because I’m alone. Different from him.
I should have just ignored that guy and lived properly. I should have spent my youth.
The beautiful surface of the sea seems like the maw of a demon, waiting to swallow me. It’s mouth is open, lying in wait for its prey. How deep is it? I can’t see through the pitch-black ocean floor.
How small and fragile humans are. We can die so easily. All the time we’ve accumulated disappears effortlessly. I have no more will to resist.
“Mom, Dad, I’m sorry—”
“I never expected to be facing a situation like this all of a sudden… It’s okay now. First, grab onto this kickboard. Since there’s a chance you might sink if you panic and struggle, relax all your muscles.”
Is this an illusion? A devil in all black may have come to pick me up from the bottom of the ocean.
“…I’m beaten. Seems like I’m in quite a pinch. Let’s see, in times like this… Got it! The other day, I tried to lower the favorability rating of the Unmoving Wisdom King sister without learning my lesson, and I acted all high and mighty, giving orders and stuff, and she seemed really delighted and carried them out. Is that some new form of harassment? When I met her, she was suddenly wearing just suspenders. I thought to myself, the internet can’t be trusted. What am I supposed to do with her!”
The demon is talking about something that’s hard to understand. Perhaps it’s a curse that leads to death.
Unmoving Wisdom King sister?… What is this person talking about? Person… a person!? Not a demon!
“We’re getting closer to the shore, so you don’t need to be scared anymore. Look, it’s shallow, shallow.”
“Takai takai?” (lifting (a child) high up in the air)
My awareness gradually becomes clearer. It’s not a demon, just a person. He behaved brightly to reassure me.
… Did I make it? I’m enveloped in a sudden feeling of relief.
My tears have made it difficult to see their faces, which are blurred. I abandon my jumbled emotions. My eyelids are heavy, and I feel like I want to sleep like this.
I’m pulled up onto the shore and laid down. Feeling the land against my back is more comforting than anything.
A supple hand touches my left leg, and my body twitches. I remember the pain I had almost forgotten.
“It’s cramping. I’m going to stretch it like this.”
My left leg is lifted up, and it’s bent in a stretching-like movement, then pulled to straighten it. After a few repetitions, the cramp subsides, and I can move freely again.
“Phew. Are you feeling better now?”
The demon steps away swiftly. No, this person isn’t a demon. He is the person who helped me.
I have to thank them… at least, I want to see them just once—!
I sense my familiar mother’s voice approaching, and my consciousness falls into a deep darkness.
[Third Person PoV]
“Shiorin, it’s amazing! This is like a weapon, a weapon!”
On the way back from the beach, she stopped by a spa to rinse off her entire body. Even though she took a shower, soaking in the bath like this made her realize how much fatigue had accumulated.
Mineda, who had touched Shiori Kamishiro’s chest, exclaimed in admiration. Looking down at her own chest, she was overwhelmed by the emptiness despite the fact that it was something springy and elastic with a magical power that she couldn’t resist. Trembling at the touch sinking into her chest.
“Ohhhh! This is addictive. Totally addictive!”
“Hyann! You touched me… Yaa…”
“Miki-chan! Cut it out, you’re making her uncomfortable.”
Sakurai pulled Mineda away with a sharp tug. Unsatisfied, Mineda reached out to touch Sakurai’s chest, but sadly, they were in the same boat. Among this group, only Natsume could rival Kamishiro.
The classmates’ pressure and envious glances were intensifying. Kamishiro wavered before the ABCD encirclement (cup sizes). Her E-cup breasts felt cramped due to the blockade.
“Haa, Amazing! You know, Kokonoe-chan was murmuring ‘melon or watermelon’.”
Hearing Mineda’s words, Kamishiro blushed and sank into the bathtub with a bubbling sound.
“Yukito tends to sexually harass people…”
“Yukito usually gets so much sexual harassment from his family that he’s numb to it.”
Suzurikawa chuckled. It was undoubtedly due to his family’s influence. The Kokonoe family, including Yukito’s mother Ouka and his sister Yuri, had always adored Yukito. Only he himself seemed unaware of it.
“Kokonoe-chan is so confidently and openly engaging in sexual harassment, so it’s kind of bold, isn’t it?”
“Yukito speaks his mind right away. He’s just being honest.”
“Yuki was complaining about his ‘goodwill rating’ the other day, but…”
While saying things like “Think about the lines you shouldn’t cross!”, Yukito had encountered Yukito, who was sexually harassing him, and barely managed to escape in one piece.
Not knowing the details of what had happened, he was dying. It happens all the time.
“Well, Yukito has been popular for a while now. Just today, he rescued a girl who was almost drowning.”
The sight of him rescuing a girl who was nearly drowning as he swiftly departed was undeniably heroic.
Watching with bated breath, Sakurai also felt a rush of relief when Yukito reached the shore, and her heart swelled with emotion. It was undoubtedly going to become a lifelong memory for that girl.
“I think that’s what Yukito means by the importance of preparation.”
Suzurikawa murmured. Nodding in agreement, everyone understood in their own way. Yukito had always been prepared to handle anything at any time. For him, it wasn’t anything exceptional; it was simply a matter of course.
One could call it a state of mind, both Suzurikawa and Sakurai had a sense of the message Yukito was conveying.
“By the way, Shiorin, isn’t it great that you got treated so generously?”
“Hahaha, don’t worry about it. It was Yukito’s idea from the start. We had a blast playing together!”
The cost of the beach outing had been covered by the combined effort of Yukito Kokonoe, Kouki Mihou, and Shiori Kamishiro. Yukito paid half, while Mihou and Kamishiro split the remaining half equally.
All three of them had earned quite a bit, including the fees from their commercial appearances. Especially Yukito had amassed a sum that was beyond what one would expect from a student. In addition to the commercial shoots, there were other activities as well.
For Kamishiro, who was bewildered by the unexpected extra income, Yukito’s proposal was a godsend.
Kamishiro had no intention of splurging. She could use the money for tuition or further studies. She thought that way, but she should be allowed to spend it freely for something like this. Even though she had been dragged into it by Yukito, it was the first money she had earned on her own. An unexpected reward for her efforts. She had even bought presents for her parents. It was embarrassing for them to see the commercial, though.
“I got a pair of shoes that suit Kamishiro-san’s style too! You’re not going to wear the dancer costume anymore?”
“I won’t! It was so embarrassing!”
She argued with Sakurai, but Kamishiro couldn’t help feeling nervous inside, thinking that she might have another chance to wear that outfit.
Yukito had hinted at a second round. If things continued this way, it might become a reality. The reality was indeed harsh.
Still, Kamishiro had no intention of declining. Even if she ended up wearing that outfit again.
The surroundings of Yukito Kokonoe were full of excitement, and waves of anticipation surged.
In some way, their classmates seemed to have a shared understanding that they were relying on Yukito too much.
This was evident in today’s events as well. They were willing to put in any effort for the sake of others. They all felt that they wanted to give back as much as Yukito had done for them. Perhaps that’s why Class B was so united.
“Come on, Anya-chan, join us!”
“Shorty… hihi… The world of differences in bust sizes… reality is cruel… I must destroy it.”
Sakurai brought Anya Shakado along , who had been standing quietly by the side. While gently patting her chest, the dejected self-deprecation of the current Shakado was a far cry from the excitement she displayed when finding an unusual insect. Sadly, Shakado was an introvert.
“That girl he helped might become your rival from now on, you know?”
Kamishiro laughed off Mineda’s teasing question.
“It doesn’t matter. Right, Suzurikawa-san?”
“It’s not about wanting to be rivals. I’ve become friends with Kamishiro-san like this, too… Yukito has been through a lot of painful experiences, and has always faced hardships. I’ve done terrible things as well. Yet, he’s always been there to help and bring happiness. This time, it’s my turn. I’ve decided not to rush. First, I’ll do my best to create days that Yukito can find enjoyable. I want to make an effort, too”
Kamishiro quietly listened to Suzurikawa’s words. There was no jealousy in her tone.
Kamishiro felt the same way. It was more of a comrade-like relationship than a rivalry. It’s fine to take it slowly. There’s no need to rush.
Yukito Kokonoe told Kamishiro that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Kamishiro had a vague conviction that Yukito wouldn’t immediately enter into a relationship with someone else.
If Yukito were to decide such a thing, he would surely tell Kamishiro and Suzurikawa first.
“I want to be a warm person like Yukito, someone who can bring happiness to others!”
Once spoken aloud, her goal became clear. This was the path that Shiori Kamishiro would pursue from now on.
Perhaps the desired future awaited at the end of that path.
Have the boys finished in the bath by now? Yukito might be causing some kind of commotion again. But there was no need to worry about that.
—There was surely happiness there.