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.
“Let’s go to the student council office together,” was a message I’d received from Saki. Since I didn’t have anything else to do at the time, I just sent an okay back, pocketed my smartphone, and started heading down to where she was. As I exited to the hallway, however…
Turning to the side, I saw Matsuyama rushing toward me, carrying a bunch of belongings. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was in such a hurry.
“Let’s go together, shall we?” He said, putting on an Oscar-worthy smile.
“Huh? I’d rather not,” I answered in instinct, before realizing it wasn’t the right choice. Oh no.
We were in the hallway, and there were many students from other classes around. My one remark just drew even more attention to us. Their many glances were laced with confusion and curiosity. I took a look myself at the annoying dude next to me, and though his tone had a tinge of annoyance to it, he couldn’t show his vitriol to the public.
Hence why he forcefully slung his arm around my shoulder like some pal of mine.
“Don’t be all weird like that. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
“…” I exercised my right to remain silent.
He tried to appeal to the fact that we were close friends, hoping to defuse the situation. And it seemed to work as the onlookers dispersed like scattering spiders.
With that, Matsuyama and I continued on to Saki’s classroom. As the number of people around us reduced, Matsuyama leaned in and whispered into my ear.
“You’re heading to where Saki is, right? No cutting corners, capiche?”
“She’s dating you just as some trial, y’know? Don’t get the wrong idea.”
I was left speechless. Why? Not only was it a mere rumor, but the person was also manipulating facts to suit their convenience. In a way, I thought he’d make a great politician.
Despite feeling annoyed, I resigned myself to the situation and proceeded to where Saki was. As I approached her classroom, memories of the lunch break resurfaced. When I came closer, I overheard hushed gossip about us. Saki briefly flashed a sweet smile when she noticed me, but upon seeing Matsuyama casually linking arms with me, her expression turned into one of utter disgust.
Even though it seemed carefully calculated so that others couldn’t see, she was making a face that no girl should ever make—in normal circumstances, that is.
“Oh, hey, Saki. I just happened to be with Iwaki. Our destination is the same, so let’s go together, okay?” He waved at her amicably.
“Akito, you slowpoke. You’ve kept your girlfriend waiting for a bit, haven’t you?”
“S-sorry,” I stuttered, still hung up on the annoyance beside me.
Saki had treated Matsuyama as though he was air. In response, the grip on my shoulder tightened as he said, “Oof, that’s harsh. Are you still hung up on yesterday’s incident?”
“Akito, did you manage to eat lunch well?” She asked, completely avoiding the dude.
“Yeah, it was delicious. But, please, spare me the embarrassment next time…”
“Ich mag es nicht. (I don’t like it.)”
“What…?” I didn’t quite catch what she said.
“Sorry, I’ve been into German a bit lately, and it just slipped out. I’ll be more careful next time.”
Somehow, it doesn’t seem like she will.
More than that, the pressure from Matsuyama, who had been ignored all this time, kept increasing. The more Saki ignored him, the more he exerted pressure on my shoulder.
Meanwhile, the gossip-loving classmates of Saki began whispering amongst themselves.
“But Matsuyama-kun is here too. What’s going on?”
“Oh, right. Didn’t she start dating the other one because he beat her in the test?”
“But Saki-san and Matsuyama-kun seem close.”
“It’s a mysterious love triangle.”
Indeed, the current love triangle we were in defied description. From an outsider’s perspective, it must seem like a strange relationship. Then, Matsuyama just said something unbelievable.
“Saki’s mother and my father are planning to get married after our exams are over. So Saki and I will become step-siblings. And as for you, Akito, we’re not just rivals in this test. No, it’s beyond that; we’ve become best friends!”
This has to be a dream, right…?
After being presented with such a well-crafted lie, I couldn’t even muster any anger. Saki’s classroom was filled with cheers, and the gossip spread to students from other classes. Saki, who had just listened to crazy speech, looked exhausted as she placed her hand on her forehead.
“Wow, that’s incredible!” One of her classmates beamed.
“Who would’ve thought something so light novel-like could happen…” Another followed suit.
“Seriously, a love rivalry sounds exciting!” A third one spoke up, though she wasn’t the last.
Various opinions were voiced. This area was similar to my own class. Becoming step-siblings with a fellow student did have an inexplicable story-like quality to it, especially when both Saki and Matsuyama were good-looking. That probably added to the intrigue.
“Even you, Mizumoto, got lucky! Having someone like Matsuyama-kun as a brother!”
While I let my guard down, one of Saki’s classmates broke a taboo topic. It was a topic Saki shouldn’t hear about. But there was nothing I could do about it. So, I nervously watched the situation unfold. Saki showed a brief moment of contemplation but then surprisingly responded with a positive attitude.
“Mhm, that’s right.”
To my surprise, Saki praised Matsuyama despite not wanting anything to do with him. With those words, Matsuyama’s eyes darted towards me, as if trying to show me something. It irritated me a little. However, when I looked at him with a smile, he returned it with a smile of his own.
“I mean, he was soooo delighted I started dating Akito! Right, step-brother?”
She referred to him as “step-brother” with irrevocable pressure. Matsuyama stiffened up. Saki made sure to clarify his status as her future step-brother (and nothing more), but he probably didn’t want to accept her final remark.
Her reverse psychology game is on point!
Furthermore, there were plenty of gossip-loving girls around me. Saying the wrong thing might lower Matsuyama’s reputation. I was starting to feel intimidated by Saki’s terrifying strategy. The annoyance, caught in the trap, trembled all over and somehow managed to put on a smile.
“Y-Yeah, right. As a brother, I, um… must… mu… mu… congratulate you… hahaha…”
I didn’t feel at all congratulated. But to outsiders who had no idea, he must have looked like a caring and kind brother. Cheers erupted, and voices praising Matsuyama echoed all around. Since I was still linked to him, I found myself surrounded by girls.
As I felt nervous, Saki cast a frightening gaze my way. However, she then looked at Matsuyama.
“Anyway, step-brother, it’s about time you return my Akito to me!” She smacked Matsuyama’s side with her school bag, causing him to let out a frog-like groan as he was sent flying.
“Phew!” She seemed rather refreshed at the smack. However, the whole classroom just looked on in shock and was left speechless by her actions.
“U-um, Mizumoto-san?” One of her classmates broke the silence, tentatively calling out to her, to which Saki just put on a friendly smile and said,
“Ah, this is just some bonding between step-brothers. It’s something we always do, so don’t worry about it.”
However, her remark about bonding eased the tension in the hallway. Time started moving again, and many students began to walk away.
“W-what was that, huh…”
“Y-Yeah, that’s right.”
“Oh, but wait, didn’t you say ‘my Akito’ just now?”
“I heard that too!”
Having found reassurance in Saki’s explanation about the bonding, the topic of conversation shifted. I swore she was about to respond in her usual composed manner, but…
“W-well, um… Could you please pretend you didn’t hear that?” To our surprise, she blushed to the tips of her ears.
Saki was known for her cool beauty, so seeing her blush was something unexpected. It was a cute gap that made everyone, regardless of gender, admire her.
“Did’ya see that? Her face just now?!”
“Could something have happened on the rooftop?”
“Damn it! I’m so jealous of Iwaki and the way he’s loved so much!”
“Could it be? Did Mizumoto-san really fall for him?”
Everyone focused their gazes on her rare embarrassed expression. However, her next words were only fuel to the fire.
“U-um, p-please don’t look at me!”
Usually, in a situation like this, one would feel protective of her, more so when she herself asked not to be looked at. Oh, but they were all ignorant to the truth. I had seen it with my own two eyes! The moment she hid her face behind her hands, she smiled impishly, as if a lifelong plan had just been executed to perfection.
Did she just cut off Matsuyama’s attempts and closed any possibility of me running away at the same time?! — I shuddered to myself.
Before I could act, she intertwined her arm with mine.
“W-well, we have something to attend to~!” She cooed. “Let’s go, Akito!”
“Y-yeah,” I managed to say, smashed by that much embarrassment.
We were seen off with cheers, teasing, and resentful cries as we made our way to the student council room.
As for Matsuyama, who had been wholly forgotten…
“Darn it! I’ll remember this! Creepy Panda!”
He fully embraced his role as a minor character.
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