“Minori, help me… I’ve got no more energy... At this rate, I’m ready to return to the hostel.” I groaned as I slouched onto the table while we waited for our lunch meals. Our lunch will be served at a traditional local food restaurant near the Ishibutai tomb. After that long strenuous walk, I eventually sent them a message suggesting we meet here instead.
“Looks like you’ve been through a tough situation, Yuyo,” Minori said with a smile. “Did Kyashii-chan give you a hard time on your date here?”
A death stare pierced my eyes. “I don’t even understand how you could call that a best friend’s date. Just getting here from the hill is pure punishment on my part for that fiendish photo!” I turned to look at Kyashii, waiting in line with Tomoka and Nazumi-san to place our group order. “Haah… Honestly, I think Kyashii has been way too brutal on me almost the whole time we’ve been on this trip.”
“Hmm... That’s how much she probably missed having you around her. It was only the other day that you made up after your frozen fight.” Minori smirked, pressing her cheek against her palm as she stared at those three as well. “Nevertheless, I think Kyashii-chan is merely having fun with you, considering this is a school trip. If you need a bit of alone time, you can have that too. And that makes you lucky, Yuyo... You get to spend more time with someone who means a lot to you. You’re creating a wonderful collection of precious memories with them while I….” Her lips parted in a sigh.
Yeah... Minori might be right. Going on school trips with your friends is one of the few ways you can build lifelong memories and gain valuable experiences at the same time.
And even though I keep whining about Kyashii being a pain, spending most of my time with her is actually fun for me. Strangely enough, I feel we’re closer to each other now than we were before, which is a pleasant surprise to realize how close we get over time.
I couldn’t hold back my smile as I stared at Kyashii.
Hmm? But wait...
On a separate note, I wonder why Minori sounded downcast. “Is there a story behind that sigh, Minori? Do you feel left out?”
“Ah! No! That’s not the case, Yuyo.” Minori looked at me sideways. “Ara~… I just said something completely off-the-wall, didn’t I? A-ha-ha…” A nervous smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she gently swayed her hands.
“Hmm?” I shot her a stern expression. She is not one to show signs of awkwardness very often, at least not to my eyes. She typically maintains a calm exterior no matter what, which is why her uneasiness is a dead giveaway. “Is there anyone you’d like to spend more time with on this school trip?”
“Huh?!” Minori’s eyes grew wide. “N-No… Absolutely not, Yuyo! Ara~… From where did you get such an assumption? A-ha-ha!” Her voice grows increasingly awkward.
“Minori, our friendship dates back to our freshman days. By now, it’s easy for me to pick up dishonesty right off your face – like the one you’re showing me at the moment.” My eyes twitched.
“So, who is this person we’re talking about here? I mean, is this a friend or someone else?” I had no idea she was looking forward to having more time with someone on this trip.
“A-ha-ha-ha!” She laughed irrationally. “Oh, my… N-No one in particular, Yuyo…”
“Heeh~... That answer doesn’t hold water with me, and I’m sure you know that.” I scoffed. “Minori, are you crushing on someone from our year? And you’d like to have more time with that person on this trip?”
“What?!” Her voice almost erupted in shock as though I had asked an absurd question.
Yep! She has a crush on someone, no doubt.
It’s not hard to get a read on her right now, given how sloppy she’s reacting. That sort of reaction is something I’ve seen before from Kyashii. Their response patterns and volumes unfailingly get me the answers I need.
“What… Am I wrong?” My smile was teasing.
“Ohh... W-Well, n-not exactly. You just surprised me with how quickly you managed to pick up on that. To think you’re... Ahm...”
“I’m what? ...Not interested in that sort of thing?” An amused laugh escaped me.
“No… It’s just shocking how perceptive you are when it comes to the emotions of others, given that you don’t seem as attuned to them when they pertain to you, Yuyo.” Minori fixed her eyes squarely on me.
“What?” I stared back at her. “That’s not something I feel about anyone, and that’s not how anyone feels about me either. I’ve got nothing to pick up. So... From which class is your crush?” Is she trying to dodge my question by shifting the topic to me?
“We’re back….” Kyashii took a seat beside me before Minori had a chance to respond. Across from me sat Nazumi-san.
“What are you guys chatting about?” Tomoka asked as she seated herself next to Minori. “Our ears could hear class rep’s noises crystal clear from over there.”
“We’re just talking about how Minori wished she could have spent more time with someone on this school trip but was unable to,” I replied nonchalantly.
“Yuyo!” A startled Minori glared daggers at me. “N-No! That’s not t-true at all!”
“Whooaa! Yet your voice speaks against you, class rep!” Tomoka grinned.
“I told you, Minori. It’s your reactions that give you away. Not even Tomoka could have missed it.” A grin stretched across my face. “So, anyway, what I was trying to ask you was who is this that you like from ou—”
“Yuyo...” Kyashii pressed a tissue over my mouth without warning!
“Umph!” I glared at her in surprise as I casually shoved her hand away. “What are you doing?!”
“Ohh~. I’m sorry, Yuyo~... You have some dirt around your mouth.” Kyashii’s smile was bizarrely sweet as she grabbed my cheek and dabbed another tissue near my lips.
Uhh? That smile…
“Boo! How cruel of you to do that in front of Yu-chin’s wife, Mikami-san! After that photo, now this?” Tomoka put on an impish grin. “I’ve had enough! My broken heart can’t take any more of what you’re dishing out! Are you with me, Hana-chan? Mikami-san here is relentless, yeah?”
“I don’t see any problems with it, Tomoka-chan. B-Besides… I’m willing to bet that you get it, right?” Nazumi-san smiled heartily.
“Yes, yes! Of course, I understand Mikami-san a lot! We are both card-carrying members, yeah?!” Tomoka beamed at Kyashii, who was still frowning at her jokes.
“A member of what?” I cocked my head.
“The Yu-chin’s fan club!” Tomoka winked while making a teasing gesture with her forefingers.
“. . . .”
“Anyway, where are we again, class rep?”
“Ahh… Oh! Right! It’s time to get our orders! My stomach is growling.” Minori leaped to her feet and dashed to the counter.
“What’s wrong with class rep?” Minori draws Tomoka’s puzzled eyes. “Did she not realize that the service staff would notify us when our orders were ready?” She clucked her tongue.
I just chuckled to myself and stared at Minori in curiosity.
Hmm… Is it embarrassing for her to bring up her crush in front of these girls? I thought it wouldn’t matter since she pretty much admitted to me that she had feelings for someone.
But I guess she isn’t ready to tell the rest of our friends yet, huh?
Let’s talk about it next time, Minori.
“Do you think it’s a good idea, Yuyo?” I could hear Minori asking me something.
“Yeah… Sure…” I replied, even if I had no idea what we were talking about since my full attention was on Kyashii and Ezaki-san, who were cheerfully chatting a short distance away.
After we left the restaurant, we decided to take a break on the lawn square near the Ishibutai tumulus. There were already a few other students gathered here when we arrived. And just as luck would have it, Ezaki-san was also here, reading quietly by himself like he usually does. Then, much to our surprise, Kyashii didn’t waste a second after we’d flopped onto the grass before she excused herself and sauntered toward him.
“When did Ezaki-kun and Mikami-san get so close like that?” Tomoka asked as she poked a chocolate-covered cookie stick into my mouth.
“Beats me…” I bite down on the chocolate stick. “I’m curious about that myself.” I couldn’t even take my eyes off them. The two of them seem to be having a lot of fun talking.
Also, they are talking about what, exactly?? I don’t remember them ever being so comfortable around each other in the past.
Please don’t tell me that Ezaki-san is Kyashii’s favorite. Since the confession blunder, I’ve been under the impression that she doesn’t like him at all. Yet, at this point, it’s starting to look like he is indeed the one.
Kyashii knows that Ezaki-san and Komatsuda-san are now dating in some way, right? Surely, she realizes this will only complicate things if she goes after another guy linked to that gyaru, right??
“You two…” Minori suddenly settled in front of us, completely blocking our view of Kyashii and Ezaki-san. “Are you even listening to me?” She flashed us a menacing smile.
“Uhh… Yes, of course! Ha-ha.” I chuckled a bit.
“Then... Would you mind telling me what I was rambling about earlier?” Her disquieting smile barely faded.
“Ah…” What was she saying again? “You tell Minori, Tomoka.” I prodded Tomoka in the ribs while she nibbled on her biscuit stick.
“Eeh? I know nothing about it, Yu-chin.” Tomoka dismissively replied.
“Ara~. So Nazumi-san was the only one paying attention to me after all.” I swear I can almost see a vein popping in Minori’s forehead.
“Aah… Ha-ha!” I instantly turned to Nazumi-san. “What was Minori saying again, Nazumi-san?” I asked in a whisper.
“It’s about the midterm exams, Shibasaki-san.” Nazumi-san quietly smiled.
“Oh! Right...” We’re just a week away from midterms.
Minori heaved a sigh. “Yuyo, I thought you were listening since we’re talking about exams here.”
“A-ha-ha. Err…” I was so distracted by Kyashii and Ezaki-san that I completely missed the gist of the discussion. “So, what was it about midterms again?”
“Ohh! I was wondering if you want to study together this coming Saturday? Nazumi-san already agreed. We have two days off before exam days start, so studying together might not be a bad idea. What do you think?”
A group study, huh? It’s the first time Minori has ever considered this approach. She must have come up with that idea for some reason.
“Hmm… Yeah, sure. I think that’s great.” I nodded and glanced at Tomoka. “Do you want to join us, Tomoka? Or studying for exams isn’t in your plans?”
“Aha! Of course not! I have now made it part of my plan, Yu-chin! Plus, if my wife invites me, saying no is not an option!” Tomoka’s eyes sparkled as she stuffed another biscuit stick into my mouth.
I chomped down on half of it without much thought. “That’s it, then. Count on Minori to be a great help to you.” Kyashii will likely need my help on other subjects, so I can’t offer much support to Tomoka.
“Huh? W-Why me?” Minori seems flustered.
“Yeah! Why her, Yu-chin?! You can help me instead! Having class rep torturing me constantly by word of mouth won’t help me focus!” Tomoka grumbled in protest.
“Ara~... Yuyo, I’ve decided to reconsider. I am happy to lend a hand to Mizuno-san. Leave her to me~.” Minori smiled through clenched teeth.
“Nooo!” Tomoka grabbed Nazumi-san’s shoulders. “Hana-chan, help me! You should try to convince Yu-chin for me, too!”
“But Kamiwaki-san would undoubtedly be of significant importance— Ah... I mean, help to you, Tomoka-chan,” Nazumi-san gushed.
Tomoka just pulled a scowling face.
“Okay, that’s it. So, where are we going to hold the group study?” I asked Minori.
“How about the central library?”
“Boo! That’s boring, class rep! Maybe one of our houses would do better.” Tomoka put in her two cents.
“This is about studying, Mizuno-san, not hanging out.” Minori cast a cold stare at Tomoka.
“Ah... Tomoka-chan and I are both on the same page here, Kamiwaki-san.” Nazumi-san chimed in. “If it’s someone’s house, we can openly discuss the subjects we’re struggling with and not worry about how our discussion might be bothersome for others.”
“Yosh! That was a good backup, Hana-chan!” Tomoka nuzzled Nazumi-san’s hair.
“I suppose that makes sense too.” I shrugged.
“Ohh... Okay... But which house would it be? My place isn’t available on weekends.” Minori thought for a moment.
“What about y-your place, Shibasaki-san?” Nazumi-san offered a surprising suggestion.
“Yeaah! Exactly my thoughts! I’ve never been to your house, Yu-chin!” Tomoka wrapped her arms around me this time.
“Err...” Their idea doesn’t sit well with me. “I wish I knew how to e-entertain guests, but regrettably, I’m clueless. I don’t know much about cooking, preparing meals, and all that.” I noted with an awkward smile.
“Ooh! Let us handle the cooking, Yu-chin! You don’t have to worry about us; we aren’t guests, so relax, yeah?!” Tomoka can’t seem to hold back her excitement.
“A-Are we talking about a sleepover here, too?” I reluctantly asked.
“Would that be possible, Yuyo??” Minori asked, almost matching Tomoka’s expression perfectly.
Minori has a thing for a sleepover.
Well, I think there’s no harm in having a group study once in a while at our house. Since my brother often comes home late, it’s almost always relatively empty anyway. I’ll just have to fill him in on this later.
“S-Sure… As long as you check with your families first.”
“Yeaah! Finally! My wife’s house will be in plain sight!” Tomoka sounds incredibly ecstatic.
“Thank you, Shibasaki-san.” Nazumi-san warmly smiled.
“We will, Yuyo!” Minori gently clapped her hands. “Ooh~. I can hardly wait!”
Heh... I’m not sure if Minori is looking forward to group study or the sleepover.
“Why are you all looking so pumped up?” Kyashii asked as she approached us.
“Welcome back, Kyashii-chan. As a way to prepare for midterms, we will have a sleepover at Yuyo’s house~...” Minori replied in an eager tone.
“Really?! I think that means I’m invited, too, right, Yuyo~?!” Kyashii settled down next to me in a cheerful mood. I bet she enjoyed talking to Ezaki-san, didn’t she?
“No.” My eyes gleamed coldly at her.
“Why not?!” She pouted. “Fine! I’ll invite myself, then. Hmph!”
“That’s what you get for disappearing and then flirting with someone while we make plans.” My brows knitted together in a frown.
“Haah?! F-Flirting?!” A glare flared from her face.
“What… Am I wrong?” I put on an unflinching tone.
Kyashii’s expression has darkened. “You… What are you tryin—” She interrupted herself when her gaze passed through me. She’s clearly looking at the others.
When I turned around to them, they were all just smiling stiffly at me.
“. . . .”
“Yuyo…” Kyashii called my attention again.
“What?” My eyes flickered back to her. She had shed her grim look and was now wearing a winsome smile.
“Don’t get mad anymore. I’m not flirting with Ezaki-san~.” Her smile keeps getting brighter.
What’s the deal with her smile?
“I’m not mad.” I squinted at her.
“Ohh~! I know~… You’re just jealous, right?” Kyashii’s face glowed with a cheeky grin.