“Do you think I got this part of the equation right, Yuyo? I’m having second thoughts here.” Minori suggested we take advantage of this unexpected break time to compare notes on our lectures to date. “I must triple-check my materials before sharing these advanced mathematics concepts with Mizuno-san on Saturday.”
“Yeaahh…” I couldn’t help but reply in a woozy mumble.
“Oh… How do you even know it’s right on the button without peering at my notes??” She stretches her palm up and down before my face.
“Yeaah…” I maintained my lethargic mood and let my gaze drift past her hand. “You don’t often make errors in those formulas, so yeah, I don’t have to look...”
“Hmm... You know, Yuyo... If stares can melt, I’d probably be making some ice cream out of Kyashii-chan right now.” Minori laughed a bit.
“Tsss...” I leveled a slow, steady glare at her. “And I wonder how many people realize that beneath your seemingly innocent smile lurks a wicked humor, Minori.”
“Ara, ara~, you know me so well...” With an overly adoring cheeky smile on her face, she tucked her chin into her clasped hands. “Unfortunately, not so many; you’re one of the lucky few~...”
“Tch! Yeah, sure… What an honor.” I turned down the corner of my mouth as I reverted my gaze to Kyashii, who was cheerfully chatting with Nazumi-san at their desks. “If only I knew people well enough...”
“Ooh… What’s going on, Yuyo? You’ve been staring at Kyashii-chan with such gloom for a while now.”
Truth be told, I’ve been feeling all entirely down since Kyashii and I had that conversation at the park yesterday. Without intending to, my attempt to gain a deeper understanding of her sexuality enfeebled my focus on studying. Thoughts are racing through my mind right now, and my insatiable curiosity is killing me.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time!
While I’m not saying that Kyashii should have waited until after the midterms to admit she has a thing for girls, the news has sparked so many questions in me that I’m having trouble keeping my focus on the upcoming exams.
Stay focused, Yuyo; you’ve got this ... After exam week, everything will go smoothly.
“Haaah....” My breath came out slowly as I turned my eyes back to Minori. “It’s just that there are still a few things I want to know about Kyashii. Not since yesterday have they stopped occupying my thoughts.”
“Hmm? It wouldn’t hurt to ask her, right? Kyashii-chan certainly has the answers to those.”
“Yeah, right... It’s quite unlikely that she’ll provide me with answers soon.” I scoffed. “And while we’re at it, let me ask you a few things, too, Minori.” I stared at her in the eyes.
“Huh?! M-Me?” Minori’s smile became stiff at this point. “W-What is it?”
“Firstly, I need to know what made you realize Kyashii is attracted to girls?” My tone conveyed my seriousness. “Considering that your reaction yesterday was almost nonexistent, I can only infer that you already had an idea, right? Plus, it’s not like you to have such a weak reaction to such things, is it?”
“Ooh~.” Minori’s sweet smile popped back up. “Well, that’s because Kyashii-chan’s affection towards her crush is easy to grasp. That much is plain to see.”
“Haaah?? P-Plain to see?? Easy?!?” I gave her the fisheye. “Yet here I am, having no idea at all, and you’re telling me it’s a breeze?! Where did this subtle bragging come from, Minori??”
“Oh dear~. You’re making that awfully bitter air right now, Yuyo.” She laughed inwardly. “You see, I used to think she was straight too and that all her efforts and words bore no romantic meaning. But as I thought about it, I began to notice she only reacts that way towards that one person, and her eyes are never the same when she looks at anyone else. Those moments convinced me that she harbors romantic feelings for that someone.” Her beaming smile radiated across her face.
“B-But how, though? I mean, how were you able to see those? It’s common knowledge that I’m more in touch with Kyashii than you are, so how come you picked up on it while I didn’t?” My brows drew together. “What does that make me, then? A pompous ignoramus who assumed I knew a great deal about my best friend, only to realize that I didn’t even know one of the most important things about her until much later??” I grimaced.
Following our conversation yesterday, I’ve become utterly disillusioned with how things unfold. My eyes have opened up to the fact that I’ve been missing out on some crucial aspect of Kyashii’s life the whole time, deluding myself into thinking that I felt connected to her, but the truth is, I was only fooling myself.
Good grief! How frustrating!
“One reason why I can tell it with such ease is that I have the edge over you, Yuyo. A close friendship isn’t necessary for me to tell if someone is attracted to someone.” Minori’s smile has turned smug.
“An upper hand??” My head cocked left. “And that is?”
“Unlike you, I’ve got an interest in romance and dating...” And the smugness in her smile skyrocketed. “Quite often, I look further into those details, while you tend to have a superficial view of them. You’re more intrigued by how people deal with love challenges than the concept of love itself. You must remember that sexuality has always been and always will be an essential aspect of romance, Yuyo.”
“. . . . .”
How could I have forgotten about that?!
Kyashii has always struck me as exclusively attracted to males, so I haven’t given much thought to what her sexual preferences might be. Together with my curiosity, I only wondered aloud her crush’s name to show my support and encourage her, but that was it. I didn’t even press her on why she wasn’t confessing, how or where she met that person, or what was taking so long for her to tell me who it was.
So... Regardless of how I frame it, Minori hit the nail on the head. My inference about Kyashii was based solely on first impressions. Thus, as a result of my indifference toward romance, I failed to grasp the truth about her sexuality.
“. . . . .”
“I suppose you have shed some light on what I’ve been trying to figure out, Minori.” A deep sigh left me. “Haah… I feel much better now that I understand why I’m the only one who didn’t catch it.”
“It’s alright, Yuyo. So, that’s it?” Minori flutters her eyes.
“Oh~... I thought you might have more to ask.” She beamed at me knowingly.
“Ah. Y-Yeah. Err… I still have one.”
“What is it, then~?”
“Ermm... I know this might be a little beyond the pale, but do you know who this girl Kyashii likes? I’m sure you realize it’s a girl, not a guy, right?”
“Ara~…” Minori cupped her hands around her face. “Yes, I know who she is, but I can’t share that with you, Yuyo... There's no doubt you understand why. Moreover, that’s a question you can only put to Kyashii-chan.”
“Urggh… I know, I know... I was just playing it by ear, hoping you’d say something or drop a hint.” I pouted. “Haaah… I could ask her all day long, but she will not answer until she’s ready to.”
“Hmm? A clue, you say?... I wonder...” Minori seems to be on the fence about this.
Come on, Minori... Please... “All it takes is a hint. I’m dying to find out who she is! Hmph!” My brows creased up.
“My~… Yuyo, are you perhaps jealous of this girl?”
“Perhaps so. It’s wrong, and I know it.” I squeezed my shoulders. “Of course, I’ll inevitably feel jealous of whoever gets to spend more time with Kyashii eventually. Back on the school trip, I told her that I’d be jealous of someone who would try to get in between our close friendship. Then again, I would never want Kyashii to prefer me over her love interest; that’s unimaginable. Yet, after learning it’s a girl, it’s rather upsetting that another girl will soon have a stronger bond with her than I do. Yeaahh... A girl who might ultimately replace me in Kyashii’s life. It’s just… Uhh…” I puckered my lips in frustration. “Welp! It defies my ability to put it into words! Argh!” The more I think about the girl Kyashii likes, the more my imagination irks me.
“Ohh my~... I think that’s incredibly sweet of you, Yuyo.”
“No, it isn’t! What I said was far from sweet. This is just me being selfish, and I get that. Yet, I also do not wish to put myself first, either. As someone who cares about Kyashii’s happiness, I feel the need to learn more about that person.” My fist clamped down. “If I want some peace of mind, then I must have the comfort of knowing my best friend will be in good hands... Hmm… Yeah, that’s right!”
Minori giggled. “But, Yuyo... I’ve been consumed with curiosity for some time now...”
“Have you ever thought about the likelihood that you might also be attracted to a girl?”
“No. Perhaps it isn’t in the cards for me.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Uhh? Well, I haven’t the faintest idea. Obviously, it’s because I don’t bother to pay attention to romance; that’s it.”
“Why don’t we try to find out whether you can feel attraction to girls?” Minori’s lips are curling into a whimsical smile.
“Haaahh?!” What precisely does she mean by that?? “Hey, Minori... In case you haven’t noticed, your behavior is starting to resemble Tomoka’s more and more each day.”
“Ara~! Yuyo, I’m nothing like that girl! Hmph!” She looked pretty teed off. “So, how do you feel about it? Would you like to try out if you could like a girl that way?” Minori then tossed her gaze fleetingly on Kyashii and Nazumi-san, who were both staring our way.
“I’m not sure if I wa—” I hadn’t even gotten to the end of my sentence when she swiftly seized my cheeks with both hands. “Uhmmph! What are you doing??”
“Hmm?” Her face lit up with a big smile as she drew closer to my face. “Maybe I’m trying to give you a hint?”
“Uuhh… W-Wait... Minori...?” I cocked my brow with a slight bend in my back. “What do you think you’re doing inside our classroom??”
My reaction elicited a faint giggle from her. “Please don’t move a muscle, Yuyo. I promise I won’t do anything morally reprehensible to you... Let’s stay like this for a little while.”
“It would be interesting to watch how you respond when a girl’s face gets so close to yours.” She got back that sweet smile. “Maybe this will help you figure out if you can develop romantic feelings for girls….”
“Guh! Now isn’t the time for that.”
“Hmm? Are you perhaps thinking something inappropriate~?”
“You can’t hold it against me! After dealing with Tomoka’s devilishness, each time someone’s face gets close to mine, I get the unsettling feeling they will kiss me.” I stuck out my bottom lip.
“Oh, my~! I’m flattered, but I wouldn’t do anything like that, Yuyo. The student council’s honor will be adversely affected if I engage in something like that.”
Is that to say she might act otherwise if she weren’t in the student council?!
“Minori, please move back a bit; there is too much of your face in my private space.” My finger pressed against her forehead.
“Yuyo, are you struggling with some strange feeling right now?”
“Nuh-uh… Feeling annoyed is not strange, so no. Simply put, I’m not used to having your face so close to mine. Quit it already.” I sneered.
“My~… Hmm… There doesn’t appear to be anything anomalous about your skin or breathing~...”
“Haaah?? Anomalous what??”
“But ohh~... You have such soft and smooth cheeks, Yuyo.” Minori rubbed my cheeks as if she were stroking a pet. “I wonder what—”
“Guys, what are you doing?”
I was a little surprised to hear Kyashii’s voice from behind. How long had she been standing there? “Uhmm, Minori is just messing around with her social—” When I looked up, Kyashii’s cold gaze met mine. “…e-experiment.”
Could it just be me, or is she looking somewhat intimidating there??
“Oooh~! Perfect timing…” Minori rose from her seat and patted it. “Here, Kyashii-chan, take my spot.” She then pulled Kyashii’s hand to sit.
“All right, Kyashii-chan... Would you mind touching Yuyo’s cheeks as I did earlier?” Minori smiled enthusiastically at Kyashii.
“Whaa—?!” Kyashii’s look of surprise was palpable as she stared at Minori with wide eyes. “W-why would I do something like that?!”
“Oh! In keeping with what Yuyo mentioned, it’s for research, Kyashii-chan~... A research~… So, could you kindly help me?”
“J-Just what sort of research is that??! Do we have that as schoolwork or something??” Kyashii seems hesitant to agree with Minori’s scheme.
Watching the growing discomfort and embarrassment on her face is pretty amusing.
“But Kyashii, Minori has complimented my cheeks for their smoothness.” I pointed to my cheeks. “Of course, you already know that. For this day, I’m granting you the privilege to share in its sensations as well~….” A teasing grin came across my features. What I actually want is to see more of her flustered reaction.
Kyashii swiftly landed her intense smoky blue eyes on me for a few seconds.
Or maybe not!
“Err... Ha-ha?” I chuckled spinelessly. What’s with her?! It seems like her disquieting stare has increased again in intensity lately. “I was just kid—”
The next thing I knew, Kyashii’s hands had reached my cheeks.
“Y-You’re right, Yuyo… Your cheeks are as silky-smooth as ever.” She softly said as she ran her fingers over my cheeks while staring fondly at me. She then adorned her face with a gentle smile.
“. . . . .”
My brain didn’t even register that I had stopped breathing for a fraction of a second and squeezed my chest without realizing it!
As well as that, my heart is beating three times faster than it usually does! And it’s incredible how the pounding in my chest has made my eardrums feel like they’re about to burst. Hnngh!
W-What’s going on again?!
Is there a reason I sometimes turn into a bundle of nerves when I’m around Kyashii??
There are also times when she doesn’t have this effect on me, right?
“. . . . .”
Hold up a second…
As I marvel at this beautiful face looking at me with kind eyes and a soft smile, I can’t help but wonder — it’s true that Kyashii may not always make me feel this way. Still, she’s the only person who has the unique ability to evoke those emotional responses in me, isn’t she? On most days, just being around her leaves me feeling relaxed, yet sometimes I experience extreme reactions like these. It’s like she’s unknowingly exposing me to a wide range of emotions.
I haven’t paid much attention to it in the past, as I don’t consider it particularly significant... However, at this very moment, these overwhelming and strange emotions have managed to find their way into my head.
“. . . . .”
Overwhelmingly strange emotions...