Chapter 3:

Final Answer.

I Like You, I Just Don't Know it Yet.

The promised day was here. The day Hashimoto and I would go for a crusade against the evil known as Kitahara. Everyone was blinded by the so called charisma of his. A prodigy at any sport and the victory of the team that had him was guaranteed. His teammates also called him 'man of promised victory'. However, there was another name which I was more fond of. I called him Sin of Perversion, due to his uncontrollable lust over his classmate's body. Bookmark here

I get that you're going through puberty, but my god do that talk at home, will you?Bookmark here

The last chime of the day had just rung. A sign for everyone to loosen up. A sign that the day was drawing to a close. Before going home, Suzuki and Toho came up to me. Both offered me an extra hand sincerely, in case something went wrong. Bookmark here

I told both of them that I appreciated the offer, hence why I declined. I told them I had my own reason. They understood and did not pry any further. Suzuki and Toho, they just smiled at me and wished me good luck. I smiled back at them, and they left. Bookmark here

I had already packed my belongings before the last period ended to save time. The faster I got to Hashimoto's class the better. More people would witness me coming to pick her up hence our play would look more believable. The rumor of Hashimoto confessing to me the other day quickly spread like a wildfire. It was believed that the girls in her class were the most responsible for the spread. Bookmark here

I got up from my chair and arranged it nicely. Like the day I met Hashimoto, this time, I was all alone in the classroom. For some reason, my classmates really loved leaving early. Bookmark here

I walked through the door, then went down the stairs. On Hashimoto's floor however, there were more people now than there were when I first met her. In fact, the floor was still quite packed. Female students were the majority here while the boys I could only imagine were outside, watching a match of soccer at the field. Bookmark here

No matter. Bookmark here

I went straight to Hashimoto's classroom, year one class C if I was not mistaken. Each step took me closer to Hashimoto, which would eventually take us to Kitahara. Bookmark here

I reached Hashimoto's classroom. Bookmark here

She was talking with one of her friends. They looked quite lively, like Hashimoto was not bothered by anything. Hashimoto was packing her things at the same time, so I decided to 'waste' a little bit of time until she was done.Bookmark here

About two minutes had passed. Hashimoto was already done packing, but her friend just wouldn't let go. Her friend seemed to be having fun with the conversation they were having. It was one of those times where the excitement of chatting about mundane topics got the best of you. Bookmark here

A voice which belonged to a girl called out to me.Bookmark here

"Excuse me." Bookmark here

I turned my head around upon hearing my name being called. The girl did not wait for my reply, and instead continued speaking. Bookmark here

"Do you need something from my class?" Asked the girl suspiciously. Bookmark here

"Ah, can you call Hashi—Iori?" I corrected myself at the end. Bookmark here

"I-Iori-san?" She became hesitant, "Of course. Please wait for a moment." Bookmark here

The girl walked fast, approaching Hashimoto. When she did arrive, Hashimoto and her friend's attention became fixed to the girl who just showed up. I couldn't hear it from here, but the girl carrying my message seemed to be explaining the situation both to Hashimoto and the other girl. Bookmark here

All of them turned their heads around at me, presumably her explanation was already finished. Hashimoto looked a little surprised while her other two friends seemed to be a tad nervous. Bookmark here

I lifted my right hand at Hashimoto. Bookmark here

"Yo." Or so I greeted her. Bookmark here

As a response to my super short greeting, Hashimoto bowed a little bit. Her friends, to my surprise, followed after her. After that, Hashimoto smiled at both of her friends and seemed to feel bad to have to stop their conversation midway while she was excited telling her stories. The girl she was having a conversation with shook her head multiple times, implying she didn't mind. Bookmark here

Then, Hashimoto quickly walked up to me. Bookmark here

I said my thanks to the two girls and left with Hashimoto next to my right. Bookmark here

"Sorry to make you wait, Senpai." Said Hashimoto, lacking energy. Bookmark here

"Nothing to apologize for." I replied nonchalantly. Bookmark here

The female students who hadn't gone home yet were staring at us seriously. It did not take too long for them to start whispering about us. That was how most rumor started. Exactly what I wanted; this was the ideal situation. Bookmark here

To be honest, it felt uncomfortable to walk side by side like this whilst being watched by everyone. I had to persevere, for Hashimoto had been doing so for quite some time. Bookmark here

"By the way, Senpai." Bookmark here

"Hmm?" Bookmark here

"Did you... did you perhaps call me by my name?" Hashimoto paused for a second then continued, "When you asked my friend to call me." Bookmark here

"Ah, you didn't like it?" I scratched my head, "Sorry. I just thought that sounds more natural." Bookmark here

"No!" Hashimoto, like her friend, shook her head multiple times, "I don't hate it... I mean, we are a couple right now..." Bookmark here

I looked at her. Bookmark here

"Is that so?" Bookmark here

She looked at me, but quickly looked away out of embarrassment. Bookmark here

"I-I mean a couple! As in,.. umm... a fake one!" Hashimoto tried to laugh it off but she sounded so nervous that it did not work. 
Bookmark here

Her response, it made me chuckle. I quitted looking at her and instead looked at my front. Bookmark here

"Ah! Senpai, you must be making fun of me!" Said Hashimoto angrily.Bookmark here

With that attitude, we both reached the shoe lockers. My locker was quite far from Hashimoto's, so we split up and went to our respective lockers. After getting changed into outdoor shoes, we met up in front of the school building. Bookmark here

As expected, still quite a lot students out here. Ranging from first year to third year students, there were more people here than there were near Hashimoto's class. On the contrary, though, nobody paid attention to us; at least I did not feel anyone staring. Bookmark here

We continued walking side by side, with Hashimoto next to my left now. The noisy school ground was way different from the quiet hallway. People cheering, cars on the street, footsteps belonged to the students as well as ourselves, and many more. This sensation was not all that bad. Bookmark here

Walking toward the main gate, we were closer to the street. Very soon did we leave the school area. Bookmark here

Now that we were outside, we still had to walk toward the train station and ride the train to Rokutenboru. Walking together after school, after school date with an underclassman, spending time recklessly, waiting for the sun to go down. All of this might sound romantic, but it was different for us. Bookmark here

Hashimoto did not say anything, not even a humm. I, the older one here, also did not say anything to her. We were too awkward to say anything to each other at this point. In the end, we reached the station without anyone saying a word or two to each other; making it the quietest after school walk I ever had. Bookmark here

Anyway, the train station was also another challenge by itself. It was afternoon, so quite a lot of students were here. Not only them, but there were housewives out shopping for dinner. Looking at them made me think, what dinner would I be having later?Bookmark here

If I could be a little greedy, just for today, I would like to eat something made by my little sister. Hold on a second, I should just call my little sister and tell her that. Bookmark here

But there wasn't anything luxurious such as that. When we arrived at the station, we realized the train we were supposed to ride was already closing its doors. We tried to sprint, but we didn't make it, so the train left without us. Bookmark here

No other choice but to wait for the next one. Bookmark here

The effect of suddenly running with no preparation whatsoever made us pant in fatigue. We decided to look for a bench to rest ourselves in the meantime, so we did just that. Speak of the devil, an empty bench for two people was right there in front of us. We quickly walked there and sat down. Bookmark here

While still panting, Hashimoto suddenly got up again.Bookmark here

"Senpai!" Bookmark here

"Yes?" Bookmark here

"I'm going to get us something to drink. What do you want?" Or so Hashimoto offered me. Bookmark here

"I'm good. You can get it for yourself." Bookmark here

"It can't be that way!" Hashimoto declined, "I'm asking for your help. The least I can do is to treat you to a drink from the vending machine." Hashimoto elaborated further. Bookmark here

Again with that stare. A maiden should not have that stare, Hashimoto. Bookmark here

"Then I'll have a cold canned coffee." I lifted one finger up. Bookmark here

"Coming right up!" Bookmark here

Hashimoto then quickly ran to the nearest vending machine, leaving her bag on the bench right next to me.Bookmark here

She left me with her bag.Bookmark here

Just how much does she trust me? Bookmark here

Looking at Hashimoto's bag made me remember something. I took out my phone and chose the second most recent call, which was Rin. For your information, the first one was Hashimoto. She kept calling me these past days, making sure I understood the plan entirely. I had to say, she was kind of a perfectionist in a way. Bookmark here

I made the call and made it quick. I tucked my phone into my right pocket and waited for Hashimoto, as well as the next train. Bookmark here

About a minute after tucking my phone, I could see Hashimoto running toward my way. When she arrived, I noticed that she had actually bought two canned coffees; one was black and the other had creamer in it. Bookmark here

"Sorry to make you wait again, Senpai." Said Hashimoto to me, still panting from the fatigue. Bookmark here

"Don't worry about me." I smiled, "Sit down. You need to rest for a bit." Bookmark here

Hashimoto took in my advice and sat down. With the two cans still in her hands, she told me.Bookmark here

"I didn't know your preference, Senpai." Hashimoto began the explanation, "So I bought two. Please choose the one you like. I will drink the other." She smiled. Bookmark here

"Then I'm going to take the black one." I took it from her possession, without waiting for her reply, "How did you know I like black coffee?"Bookmark here

Hashimoto averted her eyes and proceeded to stare at her own share of coffee. Bookmark here

"Well... Senpai looks like a guy that enjoys black coffee..." She giggled shyly. Bookmark here

"Hmm. You've got good eyes." I said as I opened the can. Bookmark here

I actually preferred the one with creamer, though. Hashimoto didn't look the kind of girl who drank coffee in the first place, let alone black one. I had only known her for three days, but it was safe to say that my guess was correct. Bookmark here

I proceeded to sip my share, while Hashimoto, on the other hand, only opened hers. She did not take a sip, not even a little sip. In fact, she was just holding the can with her hands, on the middle of her thighs as she stared at it languidly.Bookmark here

The bitter coffee in my mouth became even bitter if her face was like that. I could not keep up with the bitterness, so I stopped drinking for a moment; that and I had something to ask her about. Bookmark here

"Are you scared, Hashimoto?" Bookmark here

Hashimoto twitched as she came back to her senses. Her hands started shaking upon hearing my question and her grip weakened. Even then, she still forced herself to speak.Bookmark here

"There's... actually one more thing... why I'm going this far..." Bookmark here

Though shaky, she did her best opening up to someone like me. This appeared to be heavier than the previous things she told me the other day. Back then, she was not trembling in fear like now. Bookmark here

"What is that?" I asked, trying to sound as considerate as I could. Bookmark here

Hashimoto bit her lower lip. Her hands became shakier and almost no strength left in both of her hands, as the can almost slipped and fell to the ground. She managed to grab it again before that happened, though. Bookmark here

"Kitahara says... he wants to sleep with me if I become his girlfriend..."Bookmark here

Hashimoto almost didn't finish that sentence. Her voice was shaking so hard that I felt bad to even make her say something. She held back her sniffles and even tried harder holding back her tears. Her eyes were like crystals. They were beautiful and yet so very fragile-looking. Bookmark here

Any careless touch could break them. Bookmark here

I stopped looking at her. I couldn't look at her any longer. Looking at her in this state was torturing me. Why should a young girl like her be dealing with something like this? Bookmark here

"Hashimoto." Bookmark here

Hashimoto slowly looked at me, while still holding her sniffles. Bookmark here

"Let's cancel this after all." Bookmark here

Surprised, Hashimoto quickly wiped her eyes and sat straight. Strength had returned to her, albeit only a very small portion. She frowned and had this to say.Bookmark here

"W-what are you talking about, Senpai?" Hashimoto raised her voice, "We're already this far, so why should we stop now?" She asked. Bookmark here

"You're not obliged to do his bidding. I can just confront Kitahara at school." I said persuasively.Bookmark here

Hashimoto fell silent. She stared at her can again, refusing to continue. She took a deep breath and sighed. She looked at me and smiledBookmark here

"... I want to tell him face to face."Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

"That I don't like him. That he is wrong. I want to tell him all that." Hashimoto stopped shaking, "I'm too scared to do it alone. So with you being here, let me do this, Senpai." Bookmark here

Announcement came in from the speakers. Our train would be arriving shortly. I could see the train from where we were sitting at. I could see it getting closer and closer each passing second. I could hear its sound now. Bookmark here

I chugged down the remaining coffee from the can. I crushed the empty can as a way to calm myself down. Kitahara had been a bad boy, it was finally the time to teach him a lesson or two. Troubling a girl like Hashimoto? Going for her body? Bookmark here

What a joke. Bookmark here

Our train slowed down and finally arrived. Its doors began to open and people disembarked. I got up with the crushed can in my left hand.Bookmark here

"Hashimoto... No. Iori." Bookmark here

"...!?" Hashimoto looked at me.Bookmark here

"Let's do this." Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.