After talking to Zakushi, the bells rang, signalling the end of lunch, so we went back to our classrooms. Sneers and snorts welcomed my return, but I ignored them and went straight to my seat. However, there was a gift there waiting for me.
'Gum, really? Are you damn grade schoolers?!'
Barely holding in my rage within my tightly clenched fist, I took a sheet of paper and removed the gum from my chair. In my mind, I imagined shoving this gum straight into the mouth of the person who put it there, but that was merely for my own satisfaction. Now that I had Zakushi's help I felt better, but I wasn't a third-rate side character who would simply depend on him. I had to endure these pranks and find my own solution as well. However, just because I would endure this injustice didn't mean everything would be settled once my mess was over.
'I'll make sure that every single one of them regrets this. Tch.'
While imagining what would happen after my victory, school eventually ended and I headed off to club, or at least that was what I intended. Before I could exit the class, a group of boys and girls including the one who talked to me this morning, blocked my way.
"Where are you going?" the leading boy asked imposingly.
Kenta, I think his name was. He had holes in his ear for piercings and a mean glare to support his condescending attitude. I remembered him receiving two or three confessions before, but I couldn't recall what happened in those cases so I wasn't sure if the cover matched the content of the book. Nevertheless, it seemed he wanted to be my enemy.
He was about two inches taller than me and had better defined muscles, but I only frowned at the fact that this group obviously came to cause trouble.
"Club." I responded calmly.
I didn't want any trouble, but Kenta snorted at my attitude.
"Hmph, I see. You think that because you're in that club you can look down on us."
"I'm not looking down on you."
"Really? Then why haven't you apologized to her yet?"
As Kenta pointed to the girl who continued to look at me with a wronged expression, I furrowed my brows and tried to decide how to respond. In terms of my feelings, I definitely didn't want to apologize to her, but I wondered if I would be better off if I gave in this time. However, while I was stuck with this dilemma, Kenta took my silence as an answer.
"Guess that's a no."
Before I could refute, he reached for my collar with a threatening glare. As he raised his fist, my left hand twitched, but then we all froze once my name was called from beyond the cluster of students at the entrance.
I instantly picked up on who it was, and so did the rest of my opposition. Including Kenta, they all hastily retreated with pale faces. They weren't afraid of the girl who called my name, but of her fan club which had a history of punishing those who dared to put a frown on her sweet face.
Partially gratefully yet also frustrated, I walked towards her.
"What is it, Kirisaki?" I asked trying to act casual.
I wasn't sure how much she bought into it, but her previously worried expression turned into a simple smile. Unfortunately, her eyes still held concern.
"I just figured that we could walk to club together. Would that be okay?"
Kirisaki fidgeted a little and looked up at me as she asked me to walk with her. 'Yes' or 'no', I was likely already on her fan club's hit list, but it was clear that there was only one answer.
"Sure, let's go."
Hate and envy stabbed me from every angle as I walked beside Kirisaki. It was much more intense than when I came to school with the rest of the club, likely because we were alone.
'Maybe this wasn't the better idea?'
As if every step I took had a random chance of activating a landmine, my anxiety was too bad to just tell myself to calm down. However, before I drowned in this suffocating feeling, there was something I had to tell her.
I whispered to Kirisaki, whose head was only a bit above the height of my chin, "Thanks for the help."
I didn't elaborate further and stopped there. In response, Kirisaki's smile grew slightly more brilliant and she replied with a similar volume.
"It's nothing, we're friends after all."
At the thought of being acknowledged as her friend, I became speechless. No offense to Naoya, but having a girl like her be my friend just couldn't be compared with a guy friend.
One was like a starter pack that stayed with you for the entire game, while the other was the premium package that you could show off with pride.
For their sake, I won't say who I was comparing to which, but simply put, I was ecstatic.
"Friends, huh? That sounds nice."
Maybe since I was so happy, I thought that Kirisaki seemed more energetic after my response, but that was obviously just my imagination. However, her next words made me hold hope for a little longer.
"That's right. So you can call me Kanami, or even make up your own nickname for me, Haru."
As if the emotional distance between us suddenly shrank, the atmosphere unfortunately became much softer. Now now, don't think I hated this close relationship with her. I was a little uncomfortable but between like and hate, I wouldn't even know what the word 'hate' meant. However, just like I could tell, the spectators were also able to pick up on the mood around us. Thankfully, we were only a few steps away from the clubroom, or else I could have been dealt with before reaching the safe point.
'Whew, I feel like death just brushed my neck there.'
Once we entered the clubroom where Arisugawa and Amakawa were already present, I felt relieved and went to my spot after greeting them. But the greetings exchanged between Kirisaki and Arisugawa made me pause in my tracks.
"Good evening, Hina."
"Good evening, Kanami."
As I stood, perplexed by the change in the way they addressed each other, Kirisaki explained with a blush.
"As my reward for completing the first job, I asked Hina if I could call her that and asked her to call me by my first name."
Unlike with me, she could say Arisugawa's nickname out loud, but she still didn't seem used to it yet.
'Aww, I want to talk to her like that too...'
Not gonna lie, I was a little jealous of both of them, but once Arisugawa addressed me I immediately put away that emotion.
With her eyes still on the laptop screen, she asked, "On that note, Akishiro, how do you feel about shortening the name of the club to 'Life Assist Club'. We wouldn't change the official name, but allow the club to be referred to by this name as well. It was Kirisaki's suggestion."
"Hmm, that sounds fine. I did think the name of our club was a little long after all."
I replied casually, but Arisugawa's next words put me into panic mode.
"I see, so my name was too long."
It was then that I remembered that Arisugawa was the one who came up with our original club name. Although she seemed to agree with my comment, afraid that I had hurt her feelings I hastily tried to fix my mistake.
"Uh well, it's not that I didn't like the name it was just um, kind of a mouthful, but not really uh..."
At some point, even I lost track of what I was trying to say so when Arisugawa gave me a confused look, I said, 'never mind' and came off of that topic.
When Zakushi arrived, Arisugawa asked him about the name as well and since he also agreed with the shortening of the club name, that matter was settled. Among our members, only Kirisaki seemed worried about me so the mood was the same as usual. Arisugawa talked about how we would handle requests going forward, but because she hadn't finished ironing out the details yet, it was just a notice. Additionally, since we didn't take a task for today, the only thing we did in club was talk and select suitable jobs for future occasions. At the end of club, Kirisaki looked like she wanted to say something, but I left without waiting for her.
I then went home to prepare Ms. Aria's dinner. I was obviously in a bad mood but I couldn't let that interfere with work.