Same Day, 11:45 A.M. (Same Classroom)

And then the next break came.

“Yo, Akito. Looks like you’re doin’ alright.”

It was my good silver-haired, green-eyed friend coming to visit me in my classroom.

“Sorry if I’m interruptin’ you, but you got a minute?”

“Yeah, sure. Of course it’s fine. Yeah.”

“That seems like a rather complicated way to put it compared to just ‘sure.’ Want to try answerin’ again?”

“Ah, no. I just wondered if you might be a tsundere too.”

“…? What are you talkin’ about?”

“Errr, no, forget that, that’s another matter. So, what can I do for you?”

“Yep. I wanted to give you these…”

Ginbei said, taking out a neatly packed bundle.

“We made cookies in cooking class today. Mind takin’ one?”

“Ah, so that’s it? I’ll be happy to take one, of course.”

“Thanks. Can you give me an opinion on it right away? I want to hear it as soon as possible.”

And with that, we moved elsewhere. Leaving the classroom, we headed to a break area with vending machines and benches.

Even St. Liliana Academy’s handpicked studentry was proud of this place, and used this place to relax. Although it was only a short break, the area was crowded with students again.

“Come, come, open it up already.”

Having seated ourselves on a suitable bench, I opened the bundle at Ginbei’s urging. The fragrance of well-baked butter and sweet sugar spread into the air.

“Oooh. Seems like it turned out well.”

“Fufu, I think so too. It’s not just looks either. I guarantee the taste too.”

“Brimming with confidence, aren’t we? Then don’t mind If I have some.”

I picked a heart-shaped cookie and quickly put it in my mouth.

“How is it?”

“Yep, they’re really good.”

The butter was mixed in well, and the cookies had a soft texture. The hardness and moderate sweetness were just to my liking. They were freshly baked and hadn’t quite cooled down yet. Also, they had this warm handmade-feeling to them — a feeling one wouldn’t find in over-the-counter cookies.

I wouldn’t mind eating who knows how many since they were so good.

“Fufu. I’m the who can make things that please you the most after all.”

Ginbei smiled, satisfied.

“I totally know what tastes you like, and making cookies you’d be pleased with is my specialty. We’ve been close friends for six years, after all.”

“Yeah, that’s right, isn’t it…? Wait, why did you emphasize ‘close friend’ and ‘six years’ that strangely?”

“It’s all in your head. Besides, our bond has been unshakable for ages. Is there any need to deliberately show off our intimacy?”

“Hmm. That might be true too. Well, at any rate, these cookies really are delicious.”

“Eat all you want. I made them for you to begin with.”

“Really? Then I won’t hold back.”

Having gained permission, I picked up my second and third cookie.

*munch*munch*.

oniai4_illu4

*munch*munch*munch*.

I tend to not talk while eating, so I unconsciously end up causing long bouts of silence. But with Ginbei I wasn’t worried at all.

Hypothetically speaking, if Ginbei and I had been in the same class, I doubt I’d have been so isolated that my own classmates disregarded me completely.

“Speaking of which, Gin…”

“Hm? What is it?”

“Like me, you only just transferred into this academy. Have things been going smoothly?”

“What do you mean, ‘smoothly’?”

“In other words, well, something like whether you fit into your class or not.”

“It wasn’t much of a problem for me; my classmates were all nice for the most part. Although, since I only recently transferred in, I can’t say I’m friends with anyone yet, right? Plus, well, time’s probably an issue.”

“That so? Then it’s all good.”

“Although, it seems like I’m gettin’ a bit of special treatment in class.”

“Ah. Well, is it like that…”

Scandinavian hair color and eyes, and the appearance of an elementary schooler: when she, on top of that, talked somewhat like a guy, she was bound to stand out. Even in high school, Kiwatari Ginbei Haruomi had been treated like a rare species. The combination of her intellectual conduct and refined descent made her into something like an idol. It troubled the person herself though.

“Ah, right, right. Joinin’ the student council also played a big part in it. It let me fit in more easily.”

“Huh. Is that so?”

“Yep. I’ve heard it’s quite something in this academy to become a member of the student council. I thought my classmates would be opposed to it since I didn’t have any past experience, but that didn’t happen at all. They reacted by treatin’ me, someone of their age, with respect, and instead of distancin’ themselves, they got closer to me.”

“That so? So it turned out like that…”

Well, it’s true the student council here is something special, but… at any rate, the president recruited all of us recently, so I wouldn’t know how the council had acquired that kind of reputation yet.

“Well, I have the same impression you seem to have. Our joining into the student council was an extremely halfhearted course of events.”

“That’s true. It’s not like we were voted in or anything.”

“Well, whatever the reason, just being a member of the student council holds value. This proves that people trust the student council, right?”

Hmm.

Even if you say that, it’s not quite the feeling I get. I pretty much get assigned nothing to do.

…Hm? Does that… wait. I’m a member of the student council too, so why the heck does Ginbei fit into her class while I’m stuck here as an outcast?

……

…………

Yep.

Well, on second thought, I guess it’s natural this would happen. After all, Ginbei is the treasurer, whereas I’m only the secretary’s deputy assistant. Our ranks are on a completely different level. That’s right, it’s all because of the ranks. Communication abilities, popularity, all of them have nothing to do with this, yeah.

“By the way, Akito.”

“Hm? What is it?”

“The fact that you’re bringin’ this topic up means that, in short, you couldn’t fit in with your class yet, right?”

“Ah… Yeah, so you figured it out?”

“I did. We’ve been close friends for six years after all… So you really weren’t able to fit in, huh?”

“Well, it’s fine. Fortunately, I’ve got you. And Akiko, Nasuhara-san, and even prez too.”

“Maybe they’re just teasin’ you?”

“No, not at all. They’re not ignoring me, and no one’s stolen my shoes from my locker either.”

“Hm. But there has to be a reason, right? It’s not like you’re bad at socializin’ either…”

Ginbei bent her head slightly to the side and pondered, but even with her quick-witted wisdom, it looked like she couldn’t figure it out.

I already figured it out, but I had no intention of telling Genbei. The answer was that I didn’t have that many chances to interact with my classmates because the student council members, including Ginbei, kept on visiting me again and again, and this made it harder to close the distance between me and my classmates—— or something like that. Nonetheless, I was happy that Ginbei had come to visit me.

No, but, what’s wrong, I wonder?

Maybe they won’t let me in anymore after I missed my first chances to socialize with them? It seems like I’m not going to have that many friends at this school too. And add my job on top of that… Oh dear, I can only pray for my academy life not to go gray[1].

“In any case, I can’t just watch Akito’s present situation without doin’ anything after all. I know, I’ll pitch in and help.”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

“I’ll help you fit in with your classmates.”

“You? No, you don’t need to do that much. I’ll be fine even if you didn’t…”

“No need to be reserved. It’d be cruel of me to not help a close friend who’s in an unfavorable situation.”

“It’s fine, you don’t need to worry that much. Time will fix that eventually. And weren’t you the one who said my social skills aren’t bad? I’ll manage.”

“Why are you bein’ so stubborn?”

Ginbei inflated her cheeks a bit.

“I understand being unable to fit in is somewhat embarrassing. It’s not like I haven’t had similar experiences, and I’d do the same thing in your shoes. For this reason, I know that it won’t fix itself over time. Akito, you should take this more seriously than you have up until now. And with my abilities, we should be able to break this deadlock.”

“You’re exaggerating — it’s fine. It’s not so bad that you need to wrack your brains worrying about it. I’ll make sure to talk my classmates as much as I can. After that, it’ll really be just a matter of time.”

“It’s a mystery, and an unpleasant one at that. I just want to help you. Why do you hate that idea so much?”

This is getting ugly, I thought.

Looks like Ginbei’s’s trademark stubbornness has surfaced again. It won’t be easy dealing with her now that she’s like this.

“This is a serious problem, you know? It’s a problem that deeply affects our friendship. Akito, you don’t trust me, do you?”

“Impossible; of course I trust you.”

“Really?”

“You don’t believe me? Think about our relationship up until now. The answer is so obvious you shouldn’t even have to think.”

“Then let me help you.”

“This and that are two different things.”

“You’re still sayin’ such distant stuff? Are you keepin’ a secret from me?”

“Now you’re going on about me having secrets… I don’t, it’s different.”

Well, that was a half-lie, but she didn’t need to know.

In truth, even if it meant being permanently left out of my class, I welcomed visits from close friends like Ginbei.

“I’m always tellin’ you this, but that’s a bad habit, Akito.”

“Bad habit? What is?”

“Doing anything and everything on your own and hidin’ it from everyone else. Actually, you hurt me recently by doin’ that, you know? How did you think I felt when I realized you had kept quiet about it and left me?”

“Ah… Yeah. That’s true. Sorry.”

“Hmph. It’s too late to apologize for that now. Anyway, you’d better be sorry for makin’ me go through that again. And if, by any chance, you try to keep secrets from me again, I’ll make you spill the beans no matter what.”

“I already said I’m not at all hiding anything… Or wait, did you say you forgave me about secretly transferring schools?!”

“Shaddap, you bonehead.”

“Muu. I don’t want to hear that from you.”

“Hmph, what’s wrong with callin’ a bonehead a bonehead. I’ve yet to meet a man who’s as stubborn as you. And while your personality certainly has its merits, the downsides outweigh them manyfold.”

“That’s what I should be saying. You’re always like this. Everything would be fine if you just compromised a little, but that pathological stubbornness of yours always messes things up.”

“It’s fine, my stubbornness matches my boyish appearance. On the other hand, yours doesn’t, and it’s even worse because you look gentle. I wonder if you’re trickin’ others and making people cry.”

“Aren’t most of those false accusations? You’re even bringing in looks. I guess anything goes when you want to meddle, huh?”

“I’m merely speakin’ the truth. Tellin’ me it’s a false accusation is the false accusation. In the first place, Akito, as a man——”

She said.

With that, she abrubtly stopped talking.

“Hm? What’s wrong?”

“…………”

As if the earlier silence wasn’t enough, now Ginbei hung her head and curled herself up, her white cheeks turning red.

“…?”

I wondered what could be wrong, and the answer soon revealed itself.

We were at the academy’s park, where the student density was the highest. To make matters worse, it was break time, so numerous students were coming and going. In this kind of place, the two of us had surely became the center of attention before we knew it.

And on top of that…

 

[What’s that? Those two there. What are they arguing about?]

[Those two, you know, they’re the transfer students in the second year.]

[Hee? The two who suddenly entered the student council?]

[So what’re they aguing about? Is it a lover’s spat?]

[Really? Those two are going out?]

[That’s probably it. I’ve heard that she came here from Tokyo to chase after him.]

[Which means, it’s more of a matrimonial quarrel than a lover’s one?]

 

When I strained my ears, I could hear murmurs here and there.

“Ah~… seems like we’re standing out.”

“…It’s Akito’s fault…”

“No, don’t point: it makes it look like it’s your fault, right? Actually, it’s your fault, isn’t it?”

“That’s not true. You’re the cause of this quarrel, so it’s obviously your fault.”

“Really? You’re the one who got angry, right?”

Yare, yare.

We were just standing out, but now our argument was getting to be a public nuisance. In accordance with the rule ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered in’ I wanted to spend time as quietly as possible, but… this had turned into a by no means perfect state of affairs.

“——Well, we won’t solve anything by pushing the blame on each other, I guess…”

“…Seems so. I agree with that point.”

While I accepted reality, Ginbei nodded in agreement, smiling wryly.

“We shouldn’t have been quarrelin’ like that in public. Let’s learn from that mistake.”

“That’s right, huh… People are also misunderstanding here… that’s how we pay for it. It’s both our fault. Well, they say that rumors only last 75 days, so it’ll fade out, I guess.”

“Yeah, guess so. I don’t know if we really need to do something about that misunderstanding. I don’t mind bein’ treated like that, really…”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“N-Nah, it’s nothin’, alright? Forget I muttered anything.”

“What did you say? I just told you that it’s both of our responsibility, right? So properly explain it.”

“No, I won’t. It was just an out-of-character slip of tongue. Forget about it completely; erase it from your entire body and soul.”

“Isn’t that a bit too much? Aren’t we good friends? You said it yourself just now, didn’t you? That distance is bad.”

“Why is it that you’re only probin’ deeper in these situations?! Anyways, I said I’m not goin’ to tell you, so I won’t. Therefore, this conversation is over.”

“Oh no, I won’t allow such selfishness. FIrst of all, since it’s you, Ginbei, I don’t think you can complain. You were going on about me being secretive or something, but you’re not better yourself. You often end conversations midway through at your own convenience, and I’m always left behind.”

“This thickheaded guy sure is noisy. His indelicacy in such situations is always givin’ me a hard time——”

And with that, Ginbei hung her head again, having realized more students had noticed us. To make matters worse, we were surrounded by my classmates’ indifferent gazes. They were chuckling, and that cold sound seemed to leak from their expressions.

“…Akito. Thanks to you we’ve caused another misunderstanding.”

“Oi, oi, me again? That’s too much. No matter how you look at it, that earlier part was your fault. I’ll admit some parts were my fault too, but one-sidedly blaming me is obviously unreasonable. That’s just tyranny. Logically speaking, we both share the blame, right?”

“…………EI!”

“UWA, THAT HU—?! Don’t kick my shin!”

“You’re so noisy, shut up. I don’t wanna hear some logical reasonin’. I’ll…”

“How am I supposed to respond if I can’t reason with you?!”

“Aaah, enough! Anyways, this conversation is over. Classes are starting soon, so I’ll be on my way.”

Angered, Ginbei stood up and turned on her heels, one-sidedly ending the conversation.

“Wait, Gin.”

“What? I already said this conversation was over, right?”

“Thanks for the cookies. They were great. If you ever make them again, I certainly hope you’ll let me have some.”

“…………”

My good friend, who had been in the middle of a quick getaway, stood still on hearing those words.

“…I see. Thank you.”

“So you’ll make me some again?”

“Well, I’ll think about it if I get to make them again.”

“I see. Yeah, I’ll look forward to it.”

“And Akito?”

“Hm?”

Ginbei looked over her shoulder, pouting as she said:

“I admire your meticulous nature, yet I hate it.”

“Haha… Well, isn’t it better like this? It’d be emotionally hard on me if we let our relationship get awkward instead of making up quickly.”

“Hmph. You’re only honest at times like these. I am seriously displeased.”

As she teased me, my close friend stuck out her tongue and pulled down her eyelid. Then she darted away.

Yare, yare.

Well, I wonder if she’s cheered up for now?

Although she was generally a pretty detached person, she also had a sentimental side to her. That’s why I took care to apologize first whenever we fought. As long as I was open about things, she’d forgive me.

 

——And that’s all.

This was the kind of life I led at St. Liliana Academy.

No matter what happens, it looks like these unique student council members are going to play the lead role in my school life.

 

Translator notes and references

[1]As opposed to the anime-ideal “rose-colored school life”. See Hyouka episode 1 right at the beginning for example.