When I left school, the sun had begun to set, but I still had work to do.
When Arisugawa told me to make up with Kirisaki, my first question was how she realised that something had happened between us.
Her response was, "Everyone could tell. You may not have noticed but, that girl was always very conscious of you. Now don't jump to conclusions, I'm not trying to imply that she wants to go out with you, but at the very least, she definitely cares for you."
I couldn't make a response. I knew she was telling the truth, and that made it worse. I couldn't apologize enough for what I did to her, especially when she only wanted to help me. Even now she was still worried about me, so I had to make it up to her somehow. However, I just didn't know how to take the first step.
"It seems you already know what to do, so I won't go any further. I might have picked you over that irritating guy, but I won't hesitate to force you out of the club if I deem you to be a liability. Is that understood?"
I already knew that I had to apologize to Kirisaki, so now that I had been warned it was time to stop dragging it out. After I came back from Ms. Aria's apartment that night, I finally made the decision to call Kirisaki. Previously, I had told myself that this needed to be in person, but if I could do something like that so easily I wouldn't have wasted so much time. I needed to do this while I still had my resolve.
All that was left was to tap on the phone icon and then my role would be done. After that there were three main outcomes, she could let the phone ring, hang up or answer it. She now held the power to decide whether or not I had the chance to apologize, and I couldn't blame her no matter what she option she took.
I took a deep breath on my bed before starting the call and raising the phone to my ear. First ring, second ring, third ring, fourth ring, with each ring I was hit by both relief and frustration that I had to endure.
As the call approached its final ring, I slowly lowered the phone and was ready to call again, but then she finally picked up.
"Uh, um, ehem, well..."
I tried to say something, but forget sentences, even words were barely within my capabilities. And so, as disgraceful as it was, I allowed her to take the initiative from me.
There was a dull pain in my chest once I realized that she meant to say 'Haru', but this was exactly the reason why I had to continue the call.
"Yes, it's me. Can I talk to you right now?"
"Uh, well it's almost time for lights out so I don't think..."
"That's fine. It won't take long."
I was glad she was willing to listen to me so I didn't mind having a time limit.
Once she gave me the go-ahead, I placed my free hand on my knee and began, "I'll start off with the most important thing in case we get cut off later. Kirisaki, I'm sorry for pushing you away when you were only trying to help. I don't expect you to forgive me right away, but I hope that you can give me a chance to redeem myself."
Even though this wasn't a video call, I still lowered my head with sincerity. Something I would definitely do again the next time we met in person.
More than a few seconds past, but I heard nothing from her. Nonetheless, I kept my head down, waiting until she said something or hung up. After staying in this position for quite some time, I eventually heard a sigh from her side of the phone.
"You're so unfair," she said.
I was deeply worried that she was offended my apology so I hastily tried to figure out why and what I could do to fix it, but while I was panicking like this she kindly explained it for me.
"I was going to apologize first so that you would feel more guilty and owe me a favour."
"Woah woah, who taught you a strategy like that?" I asked in surprise.
I was certain that there was no way this innocent girl would be able to cook up such a scheme, so there had to be someone who provided her with the idea.
"My best friend. She also told me to look at you with upturned eyes and act sorry if you saw through me, but I guess that won't work on a voice call."
'What?! Why does it sound like her friend's a cunning fox? I better stay away from that one.'
While I conversed with Kirisaki, I stopped bowing my head at some point and was smiling instead. I could already feel that the crack in our relationship was starting to mend itself.
"Well, I do feel bad for what I did so I don't mind owing you a favour. Do you have anything in mind?"
"Hmm, no, I'll just leave it on my tab."
"I didn't know favours had tabs but okay."
"Thanks. Oh! By the way, I want to have our celebration get-together this Saturday do you think you can come?"
"Uh, well, I mean..."
"Please. You won't force me to use favour already, right Haru?"
Even though it was over the phone, I folded as soon as she called me by my nickname. I was reluctant about having fun without taking care of my current problems, but even so there was a simple solution. I just had to finish everything before the weekend.
The two of us went on to talk straight up until she was forced to bed, making this our longest conversation to date.
'I called to apologize and yet less than ten minutes in we just started talking like usual. It would just be cute if that was her nature, but if she could do this on purpose, then all three of the girls in my club are ones to fear.'
As I put down my phone, I decided to deliver news of my success to Arisugawa and got a response less than ten seconds later.
[Good. There's nothing wrong with fights between friends, but if you're not careful her fans might come get you.]
I shivered as I read her warning, and also kept it mind. Still, although I didn't deny the possibility, I found it hard to believe that I would be the KKFC's next target.
After leaving my phone to charge, I wasn't very tired, but I had a feeling that I would have a pleasant sleep tonight.
However, no matter how pleasant my sleep was, I still hated the groggy feeling of when I was awaken by my alarm. Still, after years of school you eventually learn that there's nothing you can do about it, so you resign yourself to this fate.
I didn't have Naoya with me this time, but I still remembered how to block the sharp gazes with contempt so I wasn't that nervous on the way to school. Furthermore, I had made up with Kirisaki so I could focus all of my brain power on taking care of Hiroki. By the time the school gate was in sight, I came up with a tough idea for the answer that I would give him. I couldn't say that it was guaranteed to make him back off, but I was confident that it met the minimum requirements. And it was the answer I came up with after listening to my heart.
I thought that I would have more time to polish my answer, but as I was ignoring the looks I was getting, I didn't notice when the emotions behind them changed.
When I went through the gate and headed for the first years' building, I suddenly found my path blocked by a towering figure. I clicked my tongue and looked up to see who it was, but once my gaze reached his face, I immediately backed away.
'Please don't tell me I really raised this flag.'
To be more specific, I couldn't properly see his face as he was wearing a face mask and sunglasses, but the four letters on that face mask was enough to make my knees buckle.
"Um, dear sir, may I help you?" I asked with the best sycophant expression I could make.
I quickly threw away my shame and hoped that I wasn't their target. However, since I could easily think of a good reason why they would come for me, that hope was small.
A couple seconds after my question, the tall second year student asked with a muffled, rough voice, "Are you Haruto Akishiro?"
My face immediately froze stiff in response.
'Say no. Say no. Say no. Say no. Say no.'
My instincts and common sense begged me to say no, but I wasn't so daring. Since they already had me as a target, I didn't want to add any more crimes to my record.
"The KKFC has received intel that suggests that you have committed blasphemy by hurting our angel's feelings. We will need you to come in for questioning."
In my mind it was hard to separate the KKFC from the Inquisition so when I heard 'questioning' I replaced it with 'torture'. With the little faith I had left in humanity, I looked around for help, but even if my reputation was unscathed I doubted that anyone would come to my rescue.
However, when I was at the edge of despair, it was surprisingly the sight of that guy laughing at me that made me regain my vigour.
'Damn it! You set me up!'
On his way into the first years' building with a nasty smirk on his face, was Hiroki.