Translated and Edited by: luccayn.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
The morning after, I dragged my tired self to school.
Well, I managed to talk with Kiyami at least, so things wouldn’t be as awkward or as heavy as they were before. In turn, I allowed myself to finally have a bit of hope, even if I was alone still. But with these thoughts in mind, things took a turn in one particular class today.
“Alright, what’s the answer to this question, hmm… Taiga-kun, please answer,” the teacher chose me.
“Huh… Um, well… I don’t know…”
I could see them hesitate for a moment before choosing someone else. The fact this specific question was apparently one of the easiest didn’t help, and it explained the tinge of exasperation on their face.
“Is math your weak point?” Came the short-haired girl’s question as I sat down. Her tone was low and her gaze intensely piercing.
“Uh, yeah. I had a bit of a gap in my learning once, and I’ve been struggling to catch up ever since,” so I said, but it was more of a motivation issue. If I were to admit it, though, Kiyami might really lose her temper.
Instead of my fears, she answered with a simple, “I see,” and continued to pay attention to class as usual. Maybe it had been just a casual, curious question. I mulled over it for a while, but couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. And before I knew it, it was already the end of another school day.
“Good work. See you tomorrow,” I almost mumbled out, standing up from my chair so I could leave.
“Wait for me. Let’s walk together.”
“Oh, sure,” I accepted, only for a strong wave of unease to wash over me. Something felt off and I couldn’t put my finger on it. When did we ever walk home together so casually? I swore we’d just go back to how we were.
However, even if I craved confirmation, timing was crucial. So, I walked through the corridors and the tree-lined avenue with her just as we did the day before, acting as if it were the most natural thing in the world — It was strange, though. Undoubtedly, this was one of the most unnatural things that’d ever happened to me. Yet, she looked unconcerned, almost aloof to everything, and that puzzled me to no end.
“By the way, Taiga. About what happened during our second period…”
“Hm? Oh, math, right.”
“Sorry to be blunt here, but you’re pretty far behind in classes, aren’t you?”
“Ah… Yeah, I am.”
There was no point in denying what was obviously true; she’d know it. All I could do was admit it.
“From now on, the class material is only going to get worse. You’ll probably suffer.”
“Yeah, I understand that. But even though I try to study on my own, there are just so many things I can’t grasp for the life of me. It feels like I’m in a rut.”
I didn’t have the money to go to a cram school, and needless to say, nobody to teach me. Hence I struggled desperately on my own. But work — my work — didn’t always precede results, and it snowballed into this.
“Do you have anyone to teach you?”
“No, I don’t. Which is why I’m trying my best on my own.”
“That’s a good attitude to have, but it’ll be tough. Want me to help you? To teach you?”
“Well, if you’re willing, Kiyami-san—Huh?!” I flipped. What on earth did she just say? How did she even come up with the idea of tutoring this loser? One mystery was added on top of another, all because of my study issues. I didn’t get it.
“There’s a library near Kitamachi Station. How about there?”
“Um, th-that’s fine. But why are you offering to teach me?”
“Uh, well… That’s, I feel like it?” Kiyami answered with what sounded like a question. I’m not sure why she did it. Maybe that’s just how she rolled? Regardless, I followed her almost in a daze and entered the library she mentioned, which I hadn’t visited much since high school.
Kitamachi had a relatively small populace in the prefecture, so there weren’t many large facilities. The library, in turn, was a one-story building just a touch larger than a convenience store. A bit disappointing in terms of space, I’m aware.
From inside and through the window, you could see the station for all it was, and the shopping street adjacent to it. Still, it was a quieter place to study than some café.
“Is here good?” She asked before we sat down. “Well then, let’s start by reviewing today’s math problems.”
Naturally, as a place where both students and the general public went, and considering its size, finding seats was a bit of a challenge. We managed to nab two seats by the window, both adjacent to a small table. There were no chairs to sit across from each other, so we both sat by the window and side-by-side. It was completely different from what we were used to, and admittedly a tad strange. If that wasn’t enough, the table was small, so we were forced to sit closer than usual. I worried our shoulders might touch.
“The problem you got wrong was the one marked as 1, right?”
“Mhm. I got things wrong from the very start.”
“It’s okay. It might seem difficult at first, but understand this part well and even the advanced questions won’t be hard. First, let’s…”
For the next dozens of minutes, Kiyami gave me a personal tutoring session. She had been quiet nowadays, but her explanations were as clear as they could be. It didn’t take long for me to get absorbed in my studies. I didn’t hesitate to ask questions whenever I didn’t get something, either, so I managed to learn a lot.
“You’re a fast learner, aren’t you? I struggled to learn the application of this formula myself.”
“No, no! You’re wrong. It’s all because you’re such a great teacher. You’re amazing, really.”
“Hehe, that’s not true,” she giggled. “You should be fine with math for today. Ah, right, you were having trouble with chemistry as well, weren’t you?”
“Huh? W-Wait, sorry, I don’t…”
“Don’t sweat it. There’s still time. I can teach you if you’d like.”
She was extremely kind. So much so, that I even wondered if she actually didn’t hold any grudges against me after all that. I don’t think someone would go this far for a person they dislike.
And, there was that scent emanating from her, like shampoo or something. I couldn’t take my mind off it. To be honest, after a session with her, I realized I’d always longed to just study with a girl like this. Well, I say “study with,” but I was the one receiving one-sided help. Thinking so, I couldn’t help but get a bit nervous and ended up glancing at the beautiful girl sitting next to me.
“…Huh?!” I jolted.
“Uh, what’s wrong?” Kiyami was puzzled at my sudden knee-jerk, even throwing me a vacant look. She probably didn’t notice him. I was the only one who could tell at this angle.
I ended up catching sight of someone I recognized on the other side of the glass. It was Imataka, and he glared daggers at me. Not even filth would receive such contempt from someone. He’d caught sight of the library from the shopping street, and he definitely knew it was us.
“No! I’m, um, I’m just having trouble with understanding the results of this experiment. I thought I’d memorized it…”
“Hm? I explained this just now though. Well, there’s no helping it.”
While she spoke with a slightly vexed edge, she patiently went over the topic she’d just explained once more. Meanwhile, I debated on whether or not I should tell her Imataka was there, but it didn’t take long for me to conclude it was better if she didn’t.
His barging in the library was one of my concerns, but he just walked off quietly. I could feel my heart pounding against my chest all the while, and I felt a wave of relief after he was off.
Kiyami and I continued studying together afterward, and in between, engaged in light conversation. That was enough comfort for what’d just happened. At the same time, it also reminded me of all the regrets I had for what happened a year ago. For what I did.
Like a recurring migraine, my remorse gnawed at me.
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