The Changing Seasons
There was still some lingering midsummer heat, but summer vacation ended. Yasuki, wearing his uniform for the first time in a while, went through the school gate.
When he entered the classroom, he got a strong feeling of ‘Aah, those guys really retired, huh’ from the baseball club players’ half grown hair.
It would be a little while before class started, and Kitaoka Ema was the same as ever after all. Among the girls in the class who were close to each other, there was a guy who was going out with one of them and was acquainted with the group. Since they didn’t do something like talking to Yasuki, it doesn’t look like they were told about the trouble at the training camp or coming to his house to return the shoes. Originally the time that Yasuki, who commutes by train, and Kitaoka, who walks, arrive at school differs so something like a greeting each other didn’t really happen. But, if one thing changed, it’s that-
“Huh? You changed your hairstyle, Ema-chan?”
A boy who happened to have come to borrow a textbook called out to her. Kitaoka’s hairstyle at the start of the break was a bright and wavy style, but now it was a little darker and straight. The first day of the school after the break, everyone said ‘So cute’ ‘So cute,’ but truthfully Yasuki also felt a little shock the first time he saw it.
To the male student’s words, Kitaoka just gave a suitable “mhmm” to turn him away. Yasuki was a little farther away talking to Katsuya, but the boy’s loud words still reached his ears.
“Wow… It’s cute. I also like that style more”
The moment he heard that, for some reason Yasuki felt a prick of irritation. Taking a peek at Kitaoka’s situation, she didn’t seem particularly happy and just pecked at the smartphone in her hand.
What’s that? Is he the only one who that guy’s way of speaking bothered? He felt a strange sense of relief.
As soon as the bell rang, that guy left the classroom and Yasuki returned to his own seat.
Kitaoka’s seat was in the middle of the row closest to the hallway; pretty far from Yasuki’s that was by the window. Anyone would think her new silky straight hairstyle was cute, so it’s not like his reaction was any different than anyone else’s he thought.
Yasuki’s prep school was in the business district close to Chiba station. After the summer lectures, he went there by train twice a week after school. (School is in the opposite direction to his house. All the along the line called the Toubousen2. Chiba Station → His house → High School was the order)
Katsuya went to prep school nearby on the same day, and they normally met up in front of the station at a fast food restaurant after their classes ended until they went home.
After prep school lectures were over, while drinking coffee at the usual store, he was reviewing the intransitive verbs for classical literature that he couldn’t remember no matter how many times he heard them.
Raising his face as he heard his name, he saw Katsuya standing there.
He immediately started getting his stuff ready to leave. The moment he got up from his seat and they left the store, Katsuya suddenly stopped.
For some reason he turned around. Katsuya, with a difficult face, said in a small voice:
“Yassan… You know, I haven’t said anything until now but…”
Just what happened? Now that he thought about it, a few hours ago he said “Sorry, I absolutely have to go first” the moment that homeroom ended and left the classroom like he was flying.
“What is it?” he inquired again, and from the shadow of Katsuya who was looking down appeared a girl in a white blouse type school uniform.
“Katsuya-kun, is that ‘Yassan?’”
Being called, Katsuya looked back. He nodded ambiguously, and the girl stood next to him and bowed.
“Nice to meet you. I’ve often heard about you from Katsuya-kun.”
Saying that, she lightly touched Katsuya’s arm. The impression he got was of a short girl, with an anime voice and a simple reddish face like an apple.
…he understood their relation even without asking. Rather, how did he not notice when he’s been meeting with Katsuya every day. He received a light shock.
“When I went to the summer event. It seems that she was always coming to my blog. And since she lived close by, and we got along well…”
So basically, since about one month ago, huh. He didn’t know the details of the ‘Event,’ but it’s probably the kind where they sell doujins. The girl was wearing the uniform of a girls school around here, so she must live close, he thought.
She was smiling while looking up at Katsuya. Katsuya looked back at her like it wasn’t too badTL2. It seems that right now, he was nothing but a hindrance for these two.
“Yeah, then. I have errands, so I’ll go home first.”
With a mouth that seems to read the atmosphere, he shot the girl a look.
“Eh… Oh, is that so? Well, let’s eat something together next time, alright?”
He would understand if she was just saying that, but she doesn’t seem like a bad person.
Each of the two waved their whole arm. When he looked over his shoulder for a second, Yasuki saw them holding hands like they had already forgotten about him.
Climbing the long escalator and pulling his ticket from the machine, he finally descended the stairs and arrived at the platform for the Toubousen. However, the descending train has already left, and people are sparse. The next train is in 20 minutes. This is the kind of day where everything is unlucky.
Sighing, he remembered the scene earlier. The harmony of Katsuya and his girlfriend. They’re definitely both infatuated with each other.
He’s a good guy, so Yasuki wants them to be happy, he thinks. Even though he thinks that, on the other hand he feels it’s somehow unbearable.
Until now, he excused the fact that he didn’t have a girlfriend with ‘there aren’t that many girls in class’ and ‘I’m seen as an otaku.’ But otaku or not, it’s the proactive guys who have one. In reality, the overly serious otaku Katsuya was able to get a girlfriend. The point is that he himself has no charm. Both in his appearance and in his inside.
When he heard Katsuya went to the event even though he’s a student preparing for exams he was surprised, but more than enjoying doing the things that he wanted to do, he got a girlfriend. Yasuki wasted his summer studying seriously and just what for. He felt empty.
In addition, even though he should have studied to that extent, in the results from the mock exam that they took at the end of summer vacation, his overall rank dropped no less than 20 places. From now on, the guys that are retiring from sports clubs will be gaining on him so, even more than before, he couldn’t let his guard down. Thinking that, his impatience only grew.
He once again took a deep breath and scowled at the ground. It was getting a bit cold for a short sleeved button-up even though he was wearing a t-shirt underneath. ‘Achoo’ he sneezed, and it was at that time.
He felt a pressure on the backpack on his back. He stumbled 2… 3 steps forward. Right at the edge of the platform he managed to right himself.
Isn’t that dangerous, he looked behind himself to immediately warn whoever did it. Upon seeing the figure of the person standing there, his anger was replaced with surprise.
“What’s wrong? You had a really gloomy face, you know. You alright?”
Saying that without a hint of shyness, Kitaoka Ema looked at Yasuki’s face with a broad grin and laughing cheerfully. Because it seemed like he would fall, his heartbeat became fast and showed absolutely no indication of settling down.
“When you’re that down, you look more and more like an otaku.”
“If I’m wrong, then be more refreshing~”
Kitaoka adjusted her bag in her arms and didn’t just leave like that, but instead lined up next to Yasuki. She carried in her hand a clear case containing a prep school textbook. It seems like she must be returning from prep school too.
What for? There’s a lot of entrances to the station, it should be fine even if she doesn’t board from here.
To the suspicious Yasuki, Kitaoka spoke again.
“Iijima, you’re by yourself? What about Saitou-kun?”
“…It’s not like we have to be together all the time though”
Having said that, originally he did have plans to to go home together with Katsuya. But being treated like a set even though they’re not children is annoying, so he unintentionally replied in an abusive manner.
Kitaoka inclined her head like it was mysterious and asked:
“Is that so? I happened to see someone around the front of Perier3 that looked like him though. You’re friends but you’re not going home together?”
…if she’s seen through it that much then it can’t be helped. Yasuki thought bitterly and spit out:
“That guy is on a date with his girlfriend.”
Kitaoka raised her voice in a “Huh?”
“For real? Saitou-kun has a girlfriend?”
That type of exaggerated surprise had a scornful nuance of ‘That kind of guy shouldn’t be able to get a girlfriend,’ and he answered a bit offended.
“He does. She’s an inajou girl4… I think”
He unconsciously told her the truth, and he spoke as if it was common knowledge.
After she was taken by surprise for a moment, she looked up at Yasuki and burst into laughter.
“Oh~… Then you were dumped by Saitou-kun, huh.”
“Not really, something like being dumped…”
“It’s okay if you’re not strong enough~. You’re lonely because Saitou-kun was taken by his girlfriend, right?”
Half of that hit the bull’s-eye.Yasuki couldn’t say anything back and sunk into silence.
Looking at Yasuki like that, Kitaoka was laughing louder and louder while holding her stomach.
 : Higan is a national holiday in Japan. It’s celebrated by Japanese Buddhism sects. Wikipedia