Chapter 9:


Be Yourself, Ayane-chan!

Having opened the school gate, the newly added drops of snow from the sky of white only amplified my growing disdain toward the world. Well, that and the chillingly fast winds which accentuated the low temperature trapping us all. Despite this, only the bushes next to the sidewalks we traced reacted to this harsh environment. Perhaps, the people of Hokkaido weren’t the only ones who’d grown accustomed to God’s cruel weather choices.

If only I brought a scarf with me, although something from deep within me realized how much that would’ve made me stand out, especially given how we’ve only just started the fall season. Even despite the four layers of school uniform seeming like a theoretical paradise for maintaining warmth, I still shivered gratuitously, with my arms crossing together in a desperate attempt to heat myself.

Doing this, I thought about how Satou and Satoshi would’ve tried to find meaning in this weather. For whatever reason, I followed suit. I thought about how my old literature teachers told me about the importance of weather in a story. The only relevant thing to know, though, was that extreme weather symbolized an inability to move forward. Frankly, the fact that this was on my mind was nothing but an insult to me.

Looking to the left of the school, I saw my girlfriend. With Ayane by my side, it should’ve been clear as day how much I’ve moved on, although I guess it was Satou who roped me into it. In fact, I didn’t even know if I had feelings for this weird girl. As she tried grabbing the breaths that only this cold weather could make visible, I realized how my relationship with her had yet to settle in. I only asked her out to make my friend happy, so seeing her on the gray sidewalk didn’t fill me with the same emotions that someone else might’ve had.

The colors she stood on only persisted to the other side, a side which had a sidewalk of its own with only a gray road between it. While the path we traced filled itself with nothing but bushes and the school building, the way across us had many shops, restaurants, and buildings to enter. Of those buildings, it would be the library that I’d go to with Ayane by my side.

Perhaps getting impatient, Ayane began to move her feet, with me following suit. While normally, she walked slowly, this time I was the one who Ayane waited for, as my steps slowed in the cold weather. Right now, I bet those old teachers of mine would tell me about how these nearly paralyzed steps truly did represent my lack of progress, and while I’d try to pick up the pace in denial of those allegations, Ayane would turn around before I could.

“You’re so slow…” she told me.

Her already quiet voice was hard to hear through the wind, although it could also be because the space between us had grown as my mind sat in thought.

“You know this is unusual for us, right?”

Ayane’s face began heating up, shifting color. Alongside that, she looked down on the now snow-colored floor.

“I’m… aware. I know my height often makes it hard for me to keep up.”

She stood still as she said this, so it allowed me to catch up to her, although I still put my distance away from her. The awkward feeling she’s given off, while not normally something which bugged me, somehow ended up radiating toward me as I put my hand on my neck and looked away from her.

“I wasn’t really talking about that. I’m more so just wondering how you’re able to move at all with just a sailor uniform?”

Instead of answering my question, Ayane tilted her head sideways out of confusion.

“Huh, you don’t like the cold?”

Before I could answer, I finally caught up with her, as we began to walk again.

“Not at all. The snow and these winds are just insane.”

“I don’t feel it.”

“I guess Satou-kun was right when he described you as weird.”

When the thumping noises of her feet touching the snow dissipated, I turned around to look at Ayane. Her steps halted. Looking down and away from me, the volume of her voice decreased.

“But I’d say the same about you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have chosen me.”

Hearing this, I chuckled. There’s no way she actually thought that about me.

“I don’t think I’m weird.”

Despite this, my voice growled a bit when I said that. I may have genuinely been offended by the statement, although I doubt beyond all chances that that could’ve been the case. Still, my tone changed when I heard her respond.

“Then why did you start dating me?”

While saying this, she puffed up her cheeks, and her eyebrows sharpened. Even though this pouty look should’ve intimidated me, I instead found it cute. So cute, in fact, that I patted her head with a slight smile on my face.

“Didn’t I already say? I think you’re cute.”

Ayane would then swiftly slap my hand off her head. Guarding her chest with her hands tied together, and hunching over in a defensive position, she attempted to ‘yell’ her next statement.

“Why did you do that!?”

“I already said why.”

While her overreaction made my response more timid, with me being unable to look at her, this also seemed to diffuse the situation, as she looked at me again with a smile.

“Sometimes I feel like you’re both blunt and not honest enough.”

I lifted an eyebrow, confused. Despite this, I soon after relaxed my face and began to walk again as I responded to her bizarre statement.

“What do you mean? I had no other reason to choose you.”

“You sure don’t do a good job at making me feel special.”

This caught me off guard. I didn’t get a read for how she felt either. I didn’t want to turn around and see the look of disappointment on her face. Granted, knowing her, she wouldn’t even show me her face, so I guess I made the right choice by choosing not to care. Well, I actually did care enough to give her a response, even if I couldn’t say it with the slightest shred of confidence.

“If you are special, I’ll find out later. That’s what we’re going to the library for after all.”

“I hope I can find out the same about you.”

“I don’t know if there will be more to find out.”

Before letting me dwell on my pessimistic statement, Ayane skipped ahead of me, leaning toward me to tell me something.

“You may say that, but I’ll find a way.”

Someone would usually smile upon saying something like that, but Ayane must have realized how out of her comfort zone this was for her, so she instead sporadically moved her body while her face glowed red; apparently warmed up enough to be capable of eliminating the snow surrounding us.

“Uh… Uh… I’ll meet you at the library!”

“Wait! Why are you running away from me!”

I stood still, stunned by her actions. While it would be typical of me to just walk at my current pace, without a care in the world for the feelings of others, I instead shook myself, took a deep breath, and began running. It wasn’t your average run either. I ran vigorously, with my hands and feet moving quickly, in a purposeful motion only the greats would use. I didn’t know why I did this. No logical explanation could explain my motions, but I didn’t pay any attention to it. I needed to be there for my date as I ran to the library.

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