“Pomeko-san ……, this is how you cut vegetables. Yes, your hands should be in the shape of a kitten. ……”
“Y-yeah, is this how it’s supposed to be? Aren’t you kinda too close? I don’t mind, though.……”
“No, it would be a disaster if Pomeko’s hands were cut off. I have to assist you properly……”
We’re whispering back and forth.
The bus arrived safely at the forest school site without any accidents. I was worried because in old novels about transference, there was a group transference due to a bus accident.
When I told this to Anri, she laughed at me.
After the first day of hiking and orienteering, we were preparing for dinner.
Unlike the excursions, the forest school was more of a coursework, and the students were divided into groups in order of their names.
Shinozuka and Shinjo. We were lucky enough to be in the same group.
……Saito-san was also in the our group.
I am embarrassed now to recall our conversation on that bus. I didn’t say anything wrong. No one was making fun of me. It was just that I was terribly afraid to tell them what I thought.
My words and actions could hurt people. In junior high school, Saito-san was hurt by my cold attitude.
“Wait~, you guys, you have to help me. Let’s go over here and prepare the soup and salad.”
“I mean, Sato should do it
“Seriously annoying ……”
Saito-san is must to be really popular person in the class. Yet some students don’t talk much in class. Those are Seo-san from the volleyball team and Sato-san from the basketball team.
The two of them had a cheerful feeling that is characteristic of an athletic club among girls.
They are the type of girls who are strong-willed and call themselves savvy.
I have never seen Saito-san and the girls talking in the classroom.
…… The girls’ world is a scary place to be. Just like Nanako-san was abused, anything can happen behind the scenes.
“Oh, Mako, Shinjo-san. Let’s go visit Nanako-san and Haruka-chan later. After all, you’ re getting to know each other so well.”
Anri returns to her previous tone of voice in the presence of other students. She calls me Shinjo, for instance.
It was strangely cute to see her shyness.
“Yeah, no problem Anri. My sister can’t cook at all. I’m worried that she’s doing something terrible. She has a history of trying to put red bean paste in her curry.”
“Wait, Shinjo, name…….”
“Hmm? It’s too late for that now, right? I’ve decided I’m going to call you Anri in all circumstances.”
“I-I see ……. I-I will……, wait a little longer. ……”
“I’ll wait as long as you want. You see, this is how you peel a potato–“
Suddenly I realized that Seo-san and Sato-san were out of sight.
I don’t think they are bad kids. They never said anything bad about us. She is not a problem child either. It’s just that I don’t get along with Saito-san.
She is very popular among the boys.
When we are standing at the kitchen table and Saito-san is alone preparing the dishes, the boys visit her one after another. One of them, Hiratsuka, came over.
He is the same pick-up boy who chatted with me during the ball game.
He had a big smile on his face with his long hair brushed back.
“Miyu-chan, huh. Are you alone? I’ll help you!”
“Yes, I will be fine, I think? Shinjo-kun and his team are very efficient, and most of the food preparation is done.”
“Shinjo, seriously?! He can cook too? I mean, isn’t he too good? He’s a great student and athlete…kaa…I’m really jealous! Oh, Hi-Hirano!?”
Then Hirano, a taciturn man, appeared.
For some reason, he and Hiratsuka, a flirtatious guy, get along well, and they are often together.
“Hiratsuka, our preparations are not finished. Come.”
“Don’t grab me for real! You’ll stretch my jersey! I mean, I can’t cook!”
“It’s worth a try.”
“S-See you later, Miyu! Oi, Shinjo, let’s talk later!”
Hirano bowed to me, grabbed by his scruff of the neck, and walked away–and he was gone—-.
I bow my head with a perky smile.
…… I feel like my world is expanding, though little by little. Like with Yamada this morning, this is the first time I’ve interacted with boys like this.
I made eye contact with Saito-san.
Saito-san was smiling bitterly, as if she didn’t know how to interact with me.
“Shinjo-kun, I’m done here. Is there anything Miyu can help you with?”
“No, we’re almost done here too. All that’s left is to stew.”
Then Seo-san and the others returned.
Without saying anything in particular, Seo and Sato sat at the table waiting for the food to be cooked.
Saito-san looked like she wanted to say something.
…… Anri and I were able to enjoy the excursion together. For the first time in my life I could find a school event enjoyable.
In this forest school, I have to interact with students other than Anri.
Just because we are in the same class doesn’t mean we all get along. I know that.
Those of us who have experienced the horror of human relationships firsthand know that.
I mustered up a little courage and talked to Seo-san.
It was the first time for me to talk to a female classmate, and I was at a loss as to whether I should speak in honorifics or not.
“Uhm, ……, S-Seo-san and Sato-san. I don’t know how much rice the girls eat, because my baseline is far away, so I can’t rely on it. That’s why, can you come over and share your salad with me?”
If I don’t get along with these two, I think a third party can stand between us and a better atmosphere for the group.
Anri was watching over me from the side.
Seo-san made a bare voice. Something like Haruka ……. Ah, the volleyball team. Haruka often helps her.
“Hoo!? Sh-Shinjo-kun ……. Y-yes, r-right. I-I’ll help you! Come on, Sato, stand up too.”
“Eh Eeh? That’s fine ……”
Thank God, the atmosphere between us has softened. I smile with relief.
The two of them shared their food with me, looking a little embarrassed and slumped over.
The rest of the dinner table was peaceful.
Saito-san showed off her natural communicative ability. They had a lot of fun talking about love and fashion.
It was nothing to write home about. I’ve never talked to Saito-san before, and I’ve only avoided her because of her looks and the fact that boys try to mess with her.
“Wait, Saito, seriously? Y-You don’t like anyone. You don’t like flirty guys.……”
“Heeh, so that’s how you do that make-up. I’ll try to imitate it.”
From time to time, Seo-san would talk to Anri and me.
I stutter and somehow manage to reply.
“I mean, Shinozuka-san has super beautiful skin, right~. She’s a good volleyball player, isn’t she? Haruka praised her so highly.”
“I-I’m not that good. …… That was just Haruka-chan’s way of teaching me. ……”
“Uwa, tsundere! So cute! You were super cute the way you talk to Shinjo-kun!”
“E-EEH!? Ho-Hold on a second. When have I ever had a cute way of speaking! T-this is normal for me, right? Right S-Shinjo.”
“Anri always speaks in a cute way. No matter how you talk, Anri.”
Anri coughed and hid behind me. Are you okay?
Seo and Sato-san looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“That’s really funny!! I mean, it’s super amazing that you can say a line like that with a straight face. I envy you, Shinozuka-san…….”
“Yeah, it’s bad. I’d love to be told something like that. Anri-chan is super cute!”
Saito-san is also holding her stomach and laughing.
What’s so funny? I don’t know, but I understood that it was not a kind of mockery.
Because there was a smile on their faces, as if they were high school students of their age.
This is what I call a conversational atmosphere.
After this, there was a recreational activity for the students. I heard that some students will sing songs and others will dance. There is no event where all the students in high school dance together, but there seems to be a campfire.
Campfire……. Sounds like a different forest school than the one I had in middle school.
“Osu!! I’m here to play!! Shinjo, let’s play baseball!!” (Yamada)
“Y-Yamada-kun you can’t, it’s already dark. ……Uhm, I brought snacks, can I sit with you?” (Tanaka)
“Chorries! Oh, isn’t Seo-san’s mood different from usual? Could you be any meaner?” (Hiratsuka)
“You’re is so annoying, idiot Hiratsuka! You’re just after Saito-san!” (Seo-san)
Yamada and Tanaka suddenly came to our table.
Hiratsuka was also here, talking openly to Seo-san.
“…… those guys are childhood friends. They’re too close to each other and the distance bugs me and they can’t be honest. Well, never mind.”
Hirano, a giant of a man, gazes warmly at everyone as he laughs with them over bottled coffee. Was Seo-san’s jealous of Saito-san ……?
Hirano offered me two new plastic bottles.
“That’s the price for interrupting your alone time with Shinozuka. Drink them.”
I accept it with a wry smile.
Anri, who has been hiding behind my back, peeks out. I hand a bottle to Anri.
I have normal coffee, Anri has milk in her coffee.
I open my coffee and put it in my mouth, feeling the anri on my back.
Why is that? Even though it was just a plastic bottle of coffee…… it tasted better than usual.