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.
“Can I talk to you for a moment?”
“Don’t. Not a good move,” I refused.
“Don’t say that. I wanna talk to you, Shinji-kun.”
The day after that debacle, as I continued to read ‘The Castle of Sand’, someone walked up to me. It was Michiru Tsukino, the orthodox beauty in Hareta’s harem.
Long black hair, a straight nose, fair white skin, and big cat-like eyes. Every single physical aspect of hers met the usual standards of beauty. Her face was so perfectly arranged, almost crafted, it somehow made me irritated just by looking at it. Her smile was also elegant, and she had a slender figure. All in all, she was the epitome of the feminine woman and someone who made you feel like you should protect them.
So why, pray tell, did someone of such a high caliber reduce herself to a mere harem member? It was beyond me. Actually, it would be more believable for her to be surrounded by men instead.
“It might not be good for you if Hareta sees us talking.”
“He’s got lots of pride, so he’s prone to strong assumptions. He might, for one, think I’m trying to manipulate you to do whatever or hear some rumors about us. His misunderstanding would be troublesome.”
“Haha, something like that—”
“Is completely possible. He’s so high-minded he doesn’t notice the passionate advances you and the other girls make.”
Michiru fell silent, staring at me as one would look into an abyss. Meanwhile, I kept turning the pages and reading without much focus. I mean, even when engrossed in a paperback, you just can’t ignore when someone’s watching you. People are sensitive to that, after all.
“You’re wrong about Kou-kun. He’s not like that.”
“That’s how you see him.”
“He’s really kind. Not the kind of person you think he is, Shinji-kun.”
“If you wanna keep singing his praises, do it with his other girls. It’s annoying.”
Michiru grabbed the hem of her skirt and looked down. Annoyed by her behavior, I stood up to move elsewhere. Before I could leave, she hastily spoke up as if remembering something.
“I remembered something. You went to the Sixth Elementary School, right?”
“Ah. That’s right.”
“I went there and was in the class next to yours. Saori-chan is my friend. We still occasionally keep in touch.”
Hearing that name, I involuntarily tightened my grip on the pages as I turned them. There was a violent crinkling noise as the paper wrinkled, but I didn’t pay it any mind. I didn’t even notice it… Oh. That incident must’ve left deeper scars than I’d thought.
“And what does that have to do with me?”
“She’s been telling me there’s someone she’s been wanting to apologize for a long, long time. She didn’t tell me their name, but your speech yesterday reminded me of that infamous trial.”
“Why would you, someone from the class next door, know about it?”
“Not just people from my class, anyone our age in our hometown would know. ‘The Arrest of a Perverted Teacher! The Genius Defense by Elementary School Boy Exposes Lecherous Misdeeds!’ or something like that.”
I immediately regretted asking. That was, without a shadow of a doubt, the headline of the local newspaper that came out the day after the incident. I deliberately tried to forget it because just remembering what happened was enough to make me nauseous. Bringing it up myself was an idiot move on my part.
“Forget about that,” with that, I left the classroom.
However, Michiru followed me. Despite having someone she’s interested in, she still acted in a way that others could easily misinterpret. Objectively, that must’ve been one of her flaws. Or perhaps that’s why she became the center of attention among boys, turning into some Madonna.
“I have a favor to ask.”
“Ask someone else.”
“I wanna date Kou-kun. Can you help me?”
“If you can’t do it on your own, just give up. Getting into a relationship on a whim might be more than you can handle.”
“What’s with that? You’re talking like you know everything.”
“It’s not about me. It’s based on things I’ve seen and heard.”
While I haven’t been in the situation myself, I’ve cooperated a few times when someone asked for help. What I remember is the pitiful sight of myself being dragged into mediations, all to fix the messy remains of whatever happened.
Truth be told, I wish they could at least be happy after I helped them. If I’d witnessed something like me giving hope to those without — as one myself — maybe my perspective would’ve changed a bit.
It just feels empty.
“If you help me, I’ll get you in contact with Saori-chan.”
“That ain’t appealing to me.”
I absolutely don’t wanna meet her.
“You’re lying. Shinji-kun, you liked her, didn’t you? You should have a heart-to-heart with her.”
“Stop making assumptions about my values and opinions. It’s damn creepy.”
As soon as I said that, I abruptly stopped in the corridor. Telling someone to stop making assumptions is a flaw in my logic. I hope she doesn’t touch on that.
“…You said I’m creepy.”
Seems she won’t. Is she being kind or just naive?
“You should be aware of it,” I continued.
“Nobody’s ever called me that before.”
“I’m saying the victim act is creepy, idiot. Don’t involve yourself with me again.”
“But, but I don’t know what to do!”
Seeing her act all defensive made me feel sorry for myself, even if for a bit. I was unjustly dragged into this situation after all. But it would be unfair to put myself on a pedestal while belittling the way she’s acting.
However, I have an annoying habit of contradicting my own words with my actions. I admit it, so can’t I do anything about it? Ugh.
“I’m the dude who berated the guy you like. It’s just insane to seek my cooperation instead of revenge. It just doesn’t make sense. So why?”
“I’ve never seen Kou-kun being confronted like that before. This method — your method — is the only way to make him understand.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“…No one expects me to cooperate with Shinji, ‘the enemy,’ so no one will realize I’m cheating in this competition. After all, all’s fair in love and war.”
“You’re quite cunning, girl. Maybe your heart is blacker than a saury’s gut¹.”
“But you’re not stupid. You’re diligent. There’s also this greedy determination to get what you want while casting away shame.”
This was a method I could highly respect. It was my kind of method, and I dug it.
“I… I don’t wanna be stuck in the present anymore. Please, Shinji-kun.”
I thought she was just a simple, innocent girl, but underneath, she harbored a similar ugly determination as me. The last time I found a woman this intriguing was when I met Saori-chan. Back before it happened
“…Alright, I’ll cooperate. You’ll outsmart the other harem members and become Hareta’s only lover.”
“…I’ll do my best,” she muttered. Her response was a bit intriguing, but she quickly pulled the conversation with her next words, preventing me from delving further into it. “So, what should I do as a return favor?”
“Don’t underestimate me. I’m not so rotten as to ask something in return for helping someone.”
“I see… Thank you.”
It’s as if she knew I would respond that way from the beginning. Perhaps she retraced her memories from our time in the same elementary school just for that. Honestly, this kind of strength made her even more attractive.
…I’ll make it happen.
I know the worst that comes from love. So if I navigate in the opposite direction, I should be able to lead her to the best result.
That guy will soon be in the palm of her hand.
1 — Saury, or Pacific saury, is a species of fish common in several East Asian cuisines. It’s also known by the name mackerel pike. (Wikipedia).
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