Chapter 3:

Our Second Meeting (fin.)

Why I Write

“Hi, Kocchan!”

Mari offered me a small wave with her dainty hands—then setting down her bunkobon with a comically-proportioned blonde heroine on the cover, the Class 1-A student took a seat.

Exactly where the raven-haired senpai just was.

“Ah, how warm... It’s nice, isn’t it? The heat of another person.”

That can be misconstrued in many ways, I wanted to say.

But exposing the sexual undertones of innocent comments wasn’t something society looked particularly kindly on, and unless you had the (metaphorical) balls of Yukimura Kiku—it’s not a concern you can ignore so easily. So I just nodded.

“Interesting book you’ve got there,” I said.

It looked like a dish best served with a locked door and tissues. Not a tearjerker, though, just a regular jerker.

Mhm,” Mari cooed. “I really like the art.”

“The art? Not the writing?”

“Of course, I respect the writing too… somewhat. But the art. It’s just brilliant, you know.”

“But the art is… never mind.”

I felt a pang of doubt.

It was probably the same thing my sister felt when she confronted my parents about the existence of Santa Claus. You’ve been lying to me my whole life! Except now I played the role of my sister.

“Sorry to ask this so bluntly, Mari—but do you happen to like girls?”

“Why would that be blunt? I’m a girl, so of course I like girls. I’ve always liked girls. Most of my friends are girls.”


Her response made it seem unclear if she actually understood the concept of homosexuality, but regardless, I was sure she was into guys.

Not just a surety—an irrefutable fact.

“Enough about females. Can we talk about Kiku-chan? I want to hear all about your chat with her.”

She just said, ‘enough about females’, didn’t she?

“You mean Yukimura… senpai?

“Yes. Kiku-chan.”

“Do you always call her that?”

“Of course. Kiku-chan and I are best friends!”

A questionable statement, compounded by several questionable acts.

Her sudden interest in heroines with giant celestial objects attached to their chests.

Her observation of Yukimura Kiku from afar.

Her distinction between a ‘girl’ and Yukimura Kiku in her mind.

“…And what does Yukimura-senpai call you?”


“And the two of you are best friends?”


Mari flashed me one of those radiant smiles reserved for dental ads, or for maidens fantasizing about their crushes. A budding lesbian romance.

That would be the logical conclusion.

“Mari… You’re not in love with Yukimura-senpai, are you?”

She laughed it off like I was being preposterous. “Of course not! You know that, Kocchan.”

I didn’t have a clue as to how she expected that of an average person.

Let alone me.

Giving a coy smile unbecoming of her genki girl persona, Mari pointed at the book’s ‘center of gravity’—and by that I mean right at the heroine’s chest. “What do you think of this, Kocchan?”

“Looks like a typical harem to me.”

“Not the book.”

“You want me to talk about the character’s boobs?”

“Not the character.”

“...Yukimura-senpai’s boobs?”


I know why I said that, but I’ll never tell anyone why.

“...No, Kohei-kun.”

“It’s here! The unsubtle switch from Kocchan to Kohei-kun!”

She used the entire book to wave me off. “Hormones aside, I’m talking about the fact that a light novel from a relatively unknown author is available in this library. What do you think?”

“To be honest, I’m surprised they even have light novels.”

The school had a sprawling library that was comparable to a good university’s. Even then, I was under the impression that schools weren’t keen on stocking their shelves with otaku stuff—so you could imagine my surprise when I found out Kitazawa had a dedicated section for it.

“...Kocchan, the library at our middle school had light novels.”

Or maybe that was just because I’d never actually bothered looking around a library before high school.

“I was obviously referring to light novels with covers like that. Obviously.”

“I can tell when you’re lying.”

“Does it have to do with me looking stupid?”


“Sorry, that was a strange thing to ask.”

I felt like Erwin Smith asking Eren Yeager a question. She stared at me with a quizzical look—then discarded her confusion with a vigorous headshake.

Wet dog-like.

Mari spoke. “In any case, you’re right that it’s weird the school would stock a light novel like this. It’s not exactly mainstream—which leads me to believe a student requested for it.”

“Is it really not popular, though? I’ve read it before.”

“...Please stop with the 'self-unaware protagonist' act.”

“Right. My bad.”

What Mari was referring to was the fact I was a light novel connoisseur.

Only she knew this, since I treated it like a badge of shame. I’d explicitly instructed her to never mention it to anyone else—and that was probably why I felt disturbed when that genki girl started reading one within eyeshot during my conversation with Yukimura.

Coincidentally, a copy of this one sits on my bookshelf.

Mari smiled. “So you’ve read it, huh? What did you think of the writing?”

“Not the art?”

Mari un-smiled. “Mizuhara-san.”

“...I thought the writing was flawless from a technical perspective. It was obvious from the prose that the author was a step-up from the rest, though sometimes the MC had some really weird inner monologues. More importantly, it felt like the characters were especially flat, even with the ‘anime logic’ treatment. Like the guy never really interacted with girls in his life—a loser’s projection, basically.”

It was a fairly hypocritical thing to say.

Since I’d only ever had one female friend my entire life.

Maybe two.

“The guy?” she asked.

“Would a girl write a generic school harem?”

“What if the girl was socially inept?”

“...I still can’t picture it.”

Mari smiled, then placing her finger at the bottom of the paperback, she pointed to the name of the author. Kasumi Kazumi.

“So, like I asked earlier before it got derailed—how was your conversation with Kiku-chan?”


Now I understood what Mari was getting at.

Why her genki girl act was so sloppy today.

Why she said she liked the art, not the writing.

Why she had such unbridled interest in Yukimura Kiku.

“...She’s a very interesting person, I guess.”

“Interesting enough to be a published author at sixteen?”


“Do you still maintain what you said about the author?”

“...No. I think I was just being critical for the sake of it.”

“Was it a decent read?”

“More than that. It was an amazing book.”

“Do the main character’s struggles make more sense now?”


“Do you think I could write like that?”

At that moment, I finally stopped staring at the cover of Our First Meeting and made contact with Mari’s eyes. I instantly noticed their hazel beauty—and how desperate they looked.

They were staring, screaming, kicking constantly against me. Tell me. Tell me now. Tell me I’m the best.

Tell me I can do it.

And just like that, a memory flashed into my brain.

It’s spring, the sakura trees are not yet blooming, and romance is thick in the air. Under the confession tree with the promise of a new school year ahead, one close friend says something to another that threatens to redefine their entire relationship.


Just like how a small spark can grow into a flame, engulfing everything in their path, shaping the world like how a blazing sunrise vanquishes the night...

Tell me you love me too.

...some sparks are just destined to die as soon as they are born.

I said, “I’m not sure about that.”

Back then, it was about idealism.

I couldn’t see myself with Tsujimoto Mari.

This time, this non-answer, this rejection—it was about something else.

Kasumi Kazumi.

Kasumi Kazumi.

Yukimura Kiku.

Back to Tsujimoto. She’s smiling... again.

“I knew you would say that. At the very least, I thought it’d be nice if I told you what I’d been up to recently—and you know, as thanks for honouring my weird request regarding Kiku-chan.”

“Don’t mention it.”

I might have been projecting, but something about her expression seemed wistful. Then she finally put the novel on the desk.

Which got me thinking...

“So, you have Literature Club tomorrow, right?”

“I do.”

“And what do you actually do in Literature Club?”

“Well, I’ve been there once. Basically, you just read a book every week, and then you bring it there to... Hey. You’re not going to ask me if you should join the Literature Club, are you?”

I scrunched up my face.

If you felt like it, it was definitely the kind of decision that could change your life.

For someone who’d never spent so much as a second thought on extra-curriculars, for someone who was content with just scraping by in his life—maybe it was the kind of crossroads where if you picked the correct path, you could end up on the track to true redemption. A special connection.

Maybe it was that kind of decision.

“And if I said yes?”

“Then I would… I would probably… No, I’d gladly welcome you with open arms, Kocchan.”

It was unclear whether her pauses were intentional, or simply because she needed time to think—regardless it added a profound dramatism to her words.

Amplifying their importance.

I remember giving it a good think.

In hindsight, it couldn’t have been more than ten or twenty seconds at most.

But at the time it really felt like I was at a chessboard.

Pondering a move that would set the tempo for the rest of the game.

The game called my life.

“Nah. I’m not really interested in joining any clubs.”

“I see. That’s very like you.”

Even if there was any hope embedded within her earlier sentence, it didn’t mean anything—not anymore. It was officially closed with her cold-blooded statement.

A regurgitation of a fact.

A brief sub-plot in a book.

Done and dusted.

I wish it was as simple as that.

“So, Kocchan. I’m going to stay here and finish preparing my analysis on Our First Meeting for club tomorrow. What about you?”

“I’m going to go home now.”

And finish my analysis for Wednesday, I wanted to add.

But obviously, that was something off the cards. Not with the emotional weight of our conversation.

And that.

That was the last spoken line.

The end of my second meeting.

With Yukimura, born after a weird 5-minute meeting on the first day of school, and a badly explained request from a once-close friend to learn more about Kitazawa High’s Ice Queen.

With Mari, born after a weird 20-minute meeting on the last day of school, and a badly explained request from a close friend to become their lover.

Like a normal person, I picked up my schoolbag, slung it over my shoulder, and left.

And that was that.

Fact Two: Our Second Meeting (END)