Chapter 1:


Be Yourself, Ayane-chan!

The fire burned brightly beneath the cold, night sky. Atop a mountain, the rapid, everlasting winds only further pushed the leaves to our campfire. Once small and modest, it had been slowly transforming into a blazing pit of rage, only continuing to enhance the smoky smells among us. You’d think it would bother those in the vicinity too, but our tent isolated itself from everyone else, so no one really minded, except for one person.

“Why are you burning your marshmallow?”

Those were the words of my childhood friend Satoshi. With his legs crossed, sitting on a log we found nearby, he leaned back with his legs crossed together, seeming confident in his position. Despite this, he focused his face on nothing other than his own marshmallow. Of course, asking such a question would demand a strong response, especially given who he asked it.

“Because they taste better than your shitty-ass brown marshmallow.”

And that was my friend Satou speaking. While Satoshi leaned back, Satou leaned forward with his back hunched over, perhaps to make burning his marshmallow easier. Regardless, the contrast could be spotted in an instant, with Satoshi’s slim build being unrecognizable from Satou’s tall and muscular exterior. Regardless, this perceived lack of care triggered Satoshi.

“How dare you use such foul language to describe the taste of the greatest marshmallow of all!” Satoshi said with his palm on his chest.

He even got off his seat, if you could really call it that. Regardless, he got Satou to do the same in this extremely pitiful debate.

Moving his arms as he yelled, Satou said, “Why wouldn’t I? The taste of a burnt marshmallow is clearly superior!”

With them standing at opposite sides, the fire between them only served to further tear them apart.

“What are you talking about!? Saying you like the taste is an admission of laziness! It completely disrespects the care it takes to make a good marshmallow! Do you even care about marshmallows?”

“Of course I do! I’ve loved these marshmallows since childhood! Am I right, Yuuki-kun? What do you think?”

I didn’t think of anything. I just took a breath. With my back and eyebrows hunched over, all I thought was how this argument trumped any level of stupidity I had once thought of as possible, so I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.

Satou and Satoshi did, however, as they sat down, anticipating my great words of wisdom. So, I spoke.

“I have no qualms with burnt marshmallows.”

“Yet you’re being very careful about how you’re making this one,” Satou rebutted.

“That’s because it’s how I like it,” I said with my arms crossed and eyes closed.

“There’s no way that’s it,” Satoshi added.

My fists clenched as I realized that I’d now become a part of this pointless waste of a dispute.

Having no other choice, though, I tried to hide this frustration by leaning forward and trying to restrict the motions of my body.

“Well, I just don’t see the point of arguing about marshmallows. It doesn’t really matter.”

Of course, while I wanted that to end the conversation, my friends would be the last people to budge, with Satou continuing first.

“You’re in the drama club with me, yet you still can’t understand the subtextual significance of how someone makes their marshmallows?”

“I can. I just think it’s stupid.”

“Yet you say that about everything. You know you can enjoy yourself, right?”

Hearing this, I stood up. I didn’t know why. As I looked away, I knew that standing wouldn’t achieve anything, and yet I felt the need to do so anyway. I used this opportunity to look, not at him, but rather at the sky above.

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked.

“Not one bit. Not once have you seemed to enjoy talking to us.”

My once-clenched fists lost all of their power as my fingertips no longer held themselves together.

“So what?” I asked.

“I think you’d know.”

Realizing how pathetic my display was, I retreated to my seat, even if I still couldn’t look Satou in the eye as I spoke again.

“You know that I don’t like looking into things.”

“I guess that explains why you keep to yourself so much.”

I couldn’t respond. As Satou’s marshmallow kept burning, Satoshi had his focus fixated entirely on making the best marshmallow possible. Throughout this whole process, I tried heating my own marshmallow. The now quiet woodlands, filled only with flames and wind, let me take in the relaxing joy of such a simple task, as I gave a faint smile.

The next few minutes went on like this, with me soon taking a bite out of my s’more. During this, I heard a sigh from Satou’s mouth, leading up to what he’d say next.

“Yuuki-kun, I’m sorry.”


He looked away before responding.

“I won’t say it again, alright.”

“No, I heard you.”

Now, once again, the silence broke through us, until, having finally gotten the perfect shade of brown on his marshmallow, Satoshi spoke.

“What he means is that we’ll always be there for you, as a friend.”

“Thanks, I guess, but I don’t really need it.”.

Satou didn’t seem to listen, though, as a shit-eating grin registered through his mouth.

“You know what you need?”

Thankfully, I knew exactly how to respond.

“To shut up.”

“Hey, what the hell!? I meant you need a girlfriend, dammit!”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“I’m saying a relationship will help give you some life.”


“So, are there any girls you like?”

Before I could react, Satou and Satoshi already looked straight at me. At this point, they wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I just picked the name that came to mind first.

“I guess Ayane-chan’s cute.”

“You mean that weird-ass bookworm with the twin tails?” Satou asked.

“I’m shocked you remember her.”

“C’mon, I’m not that dumb. I gotta know everyone in the drama club.”

Thinking everything had been said by this point, I stood up, preparing to leave the conversation by entering my tent, however, Satou spoke before I could.

“I want you to ask her out tomorrow morning. It should be easy to find her since you’re in the same class.”

I sighed, however, just as I got closer to opening my mouth, Satoshi stopped eating his s’more to speak in my place.

“Don’t you think that would be a bad idea? There’s not really anything he can do with her in the mountains.”

I turned toward them again to see how Satou would respond.

“Well, there are a few things. Like uh, there’s rivers here. He can go fishing with her… and swimming.”

Satou covered his face with his hands, realizing instantly how Satoshi would respond.

“Does that sound like a good first date!? Why would anyone agree to swim in the cold mountains!?”

As Satou made his face visible again, he somehow found a comeback, refusing to let it go.

“In that case, who would agree to swim anywhere in Hokkaido?”

After saying that, Satoshi covered his face just as Satou did earlier.

“God our region’s so lame!” Satou yelled as he slammed a used can into the ground.

“Do you have any ideas?” Satoshi asked me.

“Not really.”

Satou and Satoshi kept quiet, having run out of suggestions, so I took a deep breath and decided to finally indulge them.

“I’ll ask her out.”

While Satoshi just stood blankly at my assertion, Satou confronted me.

“You can’t just ask her out though!”

To assert his position, he stood up and stomped right toward me. Our height difference, while small, became enough for Satou to have the edge. Regardless, this didn’t prevent me from responding.

“I don’t see why not.”

“Have you been listening to our conversation this whole time!? You need a plan!”

I stood at the tip of my toes to gain the height advantage.

“I have. I just think it’s stupid to overthink this stuff. She either says yes or no, right?”

Being petty as always, Satou repeated my prior movements to show who’s boss.

“Doesn’t that seem too simplistic?”

“Thinking like that is why you’re still a virgin.”

Having finally shut him up, the flames were all we heard for the next few seconds. As for Satou, he merely turned away from me, taking a deep breath before responding.


Clearly, in a bad mood, Satou stomped back to his seat, trying to grab the chocolate for his s’more.

“Satoshi-kun, did you just take all of the chocolate?”

“Uh… yes,” he said, looking away.

“Asshole! I only got one s’more!” he yelled as he slammed the same used can as before.

Afterward, he stomped toward the tent, with Satoshi and I doing the same. Putting my hands on my sleeping bag, I just barely fit myself inside. Being used to this discomfort, I quickly closed my eyes. Somehow, I had my first dream in months. It was about Ayane, and what she’d say.

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