After returning home, I call Hihara Karen on the phone. It should still be a time when she’s awake, so I dial her number a few times until she picks up.
She immediately asks for the reason without any particular change in her tone. How will she react if I tell her I’ll come to pick her up tomorrow morning? There’s a possibility that it might be seen as another one of my chuunibyou actions, but I try not to dwell on that.
“Tomorrow, I wanted to ask if I can come and pick you up, Senpai.”
“Things have been a bit dangerous lately…”
“It’s fine. I can go to school by myself.”
Well, I expected to receive this kind of response. It’s normal to think that a high school student can go to school by themselves. But I won’t back down.
“No, no, it’s dangerous.”
“No, I’m telling you it’s fine…”
“It’s really okay.”
“Because you never know what might happen.”
“Fine… I don’t know what you’re thinking, but fine. Come to my house tomorrow around 7:30.”
Phew, I managed to get her to agree. Even if she didn’t, I still planned to go, but I desperately wanted to avoid that horror scenario if possible.
“Alright. Well, goodnight then.”
The call ends with a click. There’s a high chance she now thinks of me as a troublesome underclassman. Well, I did use that kind of tone.
I wonder what she’s doing right now? It’s pointless to think about it, but she’s probably having a meal with her father.
…Her mother hasn’t come home yet. Their relationship as a couple is… well…
I shouldn’t be thinking about those things. I should prepare for tomorrow and go to bed early. I’ll stop by Hihara Karen’s house, so I need to wake up earlier than usual to make it on time.
The alarm clock blares, piercing through my ears. I groggily open my heavy eyelids and fumble around to find the button that will silence the clock. My body isn’t fully awake yet, and I feel a slight heaviness, but I force myself out of bed. I leave my room on the second floor and head downstairs.
Downstairs, my parents are already awake. Dad is preparing breakfast, and Mom has almost finished getting ready for work.
I open the door to the living room.
“Good morning, Karen.”
My parents greet me with a shy smile. They both seem cheerful, but I wonder what it was like before I entered the room…
“Good morning, Dad, Mom.”
Silently, we start eating the breakfast that has been prepared on the table. Dad is doing the dishes, and Mom is sitting across from me.
No conversation. Maybe there’s no time to talk because it’s a busy morning.
“I’m going now.”
“Ah, okay. Have a good day, Mom.”
“…I’ll go ahead.”
Has the gap between the two of them widened to the point where there’s nothing else to talk about? What am I, who can’t say anything in response to that, supposed to do? I’m too scared to speak up.
If I were to point out that things aren’t going well between them, and they responded affirmatively, I feel like our family’s relationship would completely fall apart. I’m frozen with fear at the thought.
It’s most terrifying to think that it could lead to divorce and our family falling apart. In that case, it’s better to stay as we are now. If we can remain a family in this form…
“Good morning. I can’t believe you actually came…”
After styling my hair into my usual twin-tails and changing into my school uniform, I step outside to find Kuroda Izayoi, my junior who I’ve been getting along well with lately and who is also on the sports festival planning committee, waiting for me.
He had mentioned yesterday that he would walk me to school, but I didn’t really expect him to show up. Initially, this junior was easy to talk to and we had similar interests, which was great. However, it turned out he had a case of chuunibyou, a sort of delusional disorder.
Of course, I don’t dislike that aspect of him. But thinking about the difficulties he might face in the future, I wanted to help him overcome it. I’ve given him a few warnings, but to no avail. I know it’s not something that can be fixed in a day, but I hope that by consistently addressing it, things will improve. I’m planning to sternly point it out to him every day from now on.
“Please stop that.”
“I can’t do that.”
Right from the morning, I’ve already found a point to intervene. He maneuvers around me as if he’s my bodyguard, being cautious from all directions. It’s embarrassing… Clearly, something is off. People around us are making a commotion, kids are pointing at us. What kind of scenario does he think he’s in? Is he pretending to be a demon from another world? Or maybe he’s acting as if he’s participating in a death game?
No matter how many times I’ve warned him, he doesn’t stop. I even tried lightly tapping his head as punishment for not listening, but he completely ignores it. I’ve come to believe that I can’t stop him, and suppressing the feeling of embarrassment that makes me want to disappear, I walk to school, riding the train and covering the distance on foot.
When we arrive at school, I glare at Izayoi, as if channeling all the embarrassment I felt on the way here.
“If you do that again, I won’t tolerate it…”
“Haa, It’s so tiring all of a sudden…”
I used to think of him as a friend I could casually talk to, but now it feels like I have a troublesome junior who knows no bounds.
Afterward, we part ways at school.
I was questioned by the students in Class 1-A in the morning. There were two topics: the incident with the phone number of the Student Council President from Isshiki High School, and the fact that I arrived at school together with Hihara Karen.
I tried to come up with excuses, but they didn’t seem convinced at all, and I had a rough time since the morning. Gindou Kohaku kept glancing at me and giving me a look as if pleading for something, so I couldn’t find a moment of peace throughout the day.
Today, there are no student council duties, so I can go home immediately. However, I have to protect Hiharu Karen again. Despite all the comments I received, I hope they’ll give up. I want them to throw away any lingering embarrassment or shame.
As a precaution, I made a phone call during lunch break.
[Hello, this is Kuroda. Thank you for your help yesterday.]
[Oh, it was my pleasure. Is there something you wanted to ask?]
Since we exchanged contact information for school-related matters, I assumed they would be willing to answer my questions.
[Um, is Sakamoto… I mean, is Sakamoto-sensei at school today?]
[Eh? Oh, um, I think he has the day off today. I heard he wasn’t feeling well. Is that what you wanted to know?]
[Yes, that’s all. Thank you and sorry to bother you.]
[Eeh? Is that all…? About school… No, I understand. You’re welcome and excuse me as well.]
Although I wanted to ask about school matters, I might have asked something slightly off-topic. Nevertheless, I confirmed that he wasn’t at school. This confirms that he is definitely watching us from somewhere. I knew he would move quickly, but now that it’s certain he is around, it makes it easier for me and increases my concentration.
I saw someone suspicious in the morning, but he quickly hid, so I couldn’t get a good look and missed him. If he had come closer, I would have confronted him on the spot. It can’t be helped, but I’m certain that person is involved.
That’s him. He will come to attack us soon. Since I am a man, I can assume that he will come to us in an out-of-the-way place with a weapon. I’m perfectly capable of doing what I have to do. I’ve got four dictionaries under my clothes and a full load of spicy water guns. And four of them!
I want to give one to Hihara Karen, considering the possibility of unforeseen events. Last time, Gindou Kohaku happened to be at the scene and I got stabbed by the stalker. Well, thanks to the dictionaries, I was safe, but this time, I have to consider that not everything will go according to my plan… So I’ll entrust her with this and ask her to run away.
If I get hit. I need her to run away. Of course, I have no intention of losing. But I learned last time that not everything in the world goes according to my plan.
There would be nothing detrimental in being reminded of this.
There would be nothing detrimental in being reminded of this.
[Hihara Karen PoV]
Kuroda Izayoi, my junior, was waiting for me at the entrance of the school. He had just sent me a text message and said he would take me home again today. I agreed on the condition that he would not behave like a chuuni.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.”
“No. Don’t worry about it.”
Walking side by side, the two of us left through the school gate and started on our way home. And there it was again, the chuuni behavior stood out.
With a rather forceful tone, I pointed my finger at him and declared. Despite all the talk, I don’t actually hate chuunibyou behavior, so maybe I’ve become lenient and that’s why he didn’t stop.
“Did I though???”
He shamelessly lies even though he remembers. He truly is a troublesome junior.
Lately, we’ve been together all the time, but I only discovered this side of Izayoi yesterday. I thought he was just an ordinary Otaku like me.
There’s something mysterious about him. I feel like I’ve never met someone like him before. He seems to be everywhere and yet nowhere.
He even exudes a unique aura that sets him apart from others…
I guess I’m also thinking chuunibyou-like thoughts. Let’s stop this. It’s not worth dwelling on.
As we walked for a while, Izayoi stopped looking around in all directions. His face showed tension or something of that sort. Sweat formed on his forehead, and his hands trembled.
What’s wrong? I was about to ask, but it wasn’t necessary. I understood the reason.
Someone was following us from behind. It might be my imagination, but I feel like I saw someone wearing a similar hood earlier.
A stalker? Why? Are they after me? Or maybe after Izayoi?
We kept walking, but he was definitely following us.
“Hey, do you think someone’s following us?”
“…Yes, I think so… Senpai, please continue to the station and go home.”
“I’ll try to distract him, so please go ahead.”
“And also, take this.”
“A water gun?”
“It’s filled with extremely spicy water. Use it if the need arises.”
“But, but what about you, Izayoi…?”
“Please go quickly.”
With that, Izayoi stopped in his tracks. I tried to stop as well, but he shook his head, so I just started running.
Is that stalker after Izayoi? Is he really being targeted by someone?
Is it okay to run away here? Always running away…
Even when it might involve my important junior and my family…
I’m a coward and a spineless person. I can’t help but hate myself for it.