📢 Maybe you see "V2" or "V3" and so on in the NOVEL TITLE, it means what VOLUMES the NOVEL is.
📢 Maybe you see "V2" or "V3" and so on in the NOVEL TITLE, it means what VOLUMES the NOVEL is.

It Seems That Takane, the Current Girlfriend, Definitely Doesn’t Want to Lose to the Ex-girlfriend Prologue

"Being Together" Suddenly Turned into the Past Tense

KO-FIDISCORD


Prologue: “Being Together” Suddenly Turned into the Past Tense

If there’s such a thing as the pinnacle of life, for me, it undoubtedly came a few hours after my middle school graduation ceremony.

That day, I confessed to someone I had a crush on for nearly two years and received an affirmative response.

It wasn’t just a happy moment; it was so overwhelming that my mother worried after seeing me grinning all evening, and my sister, having been consulted, came into my room with a near-tearful expression, asking if something was wrong.

For someone whose single status equaled the length of his life, having a girlfriend was monumental. Plus, we were both set to attend the same high school, seemingly guaranteeing a rosy future.

──However, just a few days into the new school term, I started to realize that life wasn’t going to be so sweet after all.

Even though we were in the same class, I barely spoke to my girlfriend, and there was no interaction on social media either.

So, when I noticed a message notification this morning, I was agitated, wondering if my delayed rosy high school life was finally beginning.

“Can you come to the classroom early today?”

“Is there somewhere inconspicuous at school where we can talk?”

An inconspicuous place. I couldn’t think of any as a new student myself. After arriving at school, at her suggestion, we ended up on the landing of the stairs leading to the rooftop.

There were no students there in the morning, and as long as we were careful not to let our voices echo, it was a place where we could be alone without standing out.

The thought of boyfriends and girlfriends using such places for secret meetings made my heart race.

“Sorry for calling you out so early. I’m glad you saw the message. We haven’t spoken in a while, have we?”

“Th-that’s okay, but…”

The incredibly beautiful girl with silky hair tied in a side tail in front of me was supposed to be my girlfriend. But even now, it didn’t feel real, and I felt increasingly anxious since arriving here.

What was this unease? A life full of bad premonitions was fanning my anxiety.

“You know, I left early last Friday. I wanted to ask you about the schoolwork… Have you done the math assignment for the fifth period?”

Nagi-kun──this nickname, derived from my name “Nagi Hito,” was given after we started dating. In middle school, I was called Senada-kun, a much more formal address. It was natural then, as we were strangers.

“Nagi-kun? What’s wrong, you seem distracted?”

“Ah, sorry. Yes, I’ve done the assignment.”

“Really? That’s great. I haven’t been able to ask the other kids who came from different middle schools yet. You know, taking a break for work and not being able to keep up with studies, I was worried they might wonder why I even came to this high school.”

“That’s true indeed…”

The stair landing leading to the rooftop. If “she” had brought me to such an unpopular place, one might think we were being proactive, or that we missed talking over the weekend, filling my head with excited thoughts.

However, my poor responses weren’t just due to excitement. I was genuinely nervous.

The girl in front of me, “Asatani Kiri”──yes, she’s an unmistakable celebrity.

After her middle school drama debut, she gained nationwide popularity.

Her real name is different from her stage name, “Kiritani Noa”.

She transferred to my school in our second year. Though she became famous in our third year, rumors of her being adorable had circulated since our second year.

When I first saw her with her short bob, she struck me as an active, friendly girl. I developed a liking for her from the little contact we had, an attraction I’d never felt before in my life.

Thinking back to those early days, I guess I am in shock. Maybe this is the parade of memories you see when love is ending.

“Times like these, reliable friends like Nagi-kun are what you need, right?”

──It’s over. Just with those words, but clear and unequivocal, the love was crushed.

I was accepted after confessing, but had I shifted from being a “boyfriend” to just a “friend”? If asked what caused this, it seems like everything was a sign.

“Thanks for earlier in class, for helping me when I was called on. I’m glad you’re sitting next to me, Nagi-kun.”

“That’s not a big deal, I mean, it’s natural…”

“Hehe, thank you. Friends are important, aren’t they?”

Being called a “friend” again, and not being able to deny it.

She doesn’t seem to mean any harm, but that just corners me further.

Was that confession on graduation day a dream? Or am I still a middle schooler, maybe in a coma from some accident?

I know I’m just escaping reality. Why am I being treated as just a “friend”? I can’t even ask her for the reason.

Entering high school after the spring break, maybe I started to wake up and see reality.

Was it just an impulsive ‘okay’ to the confession, but actually, a relationship was a ‘no-go’?

“Hey, Nagi-kun, have you made any new friends?”

I can imagine what lies ahead in this conversation. Yet, I can’t escape because Asatani-san is looking up at me, just one step down the stairs.

“I guess, I’ve had lunch with some guys around me…”

“Ah, me too. Groups have already formed in the class, and I was able to join one. Looks like we both don’t need to worry about making friends.”

“What, I wonder…”

Maybe one day, I thought I could have lunch with Asatani-san. Or maybe she would offer to bring lunch. Or even if not, I could make lunch. My sister, annoying as she is, would surely help with that.

All such imaginations burst like bubbles. The rosy future lost its color.

The possibility of us being boyfriend and girlfriend must have disappeared before today. I just hadn’t noticed it and couldn’t accept reality.

“If you make friends, Nagi-kun, you might get busy, but please don’t hesitate to ask me for study help.”

I couldn’t possibly turn her down. I’m not in a position to.

As the most prominent new student, almost at the top of the school caste, and me, just an ordinary person, we avoid being seen talking together, so I don’t cause her any trouble.

“Ah, I should get going soon. Sorry for calling you out for something like this.”

“Ah, right. I’ll give you the notes when we’re back in class.”

Even though it’s easier to pass them in class, she’s always the center of attention. There are fans of Asatani-san in the class who blatantly change their behavior upon seeing her──of course, I knew her before she became famous, but to others, she’s the celebrity “Kiritani Noa.”

“……Hey, Nagi-kun.”

“Eh… What?”

I thought she was going to leave, but instead, Asatani-san looked up at me.

For a moment, her expression seemed not just bright──but that was only for a moment.

“Let me know if you get a new girlfriend, okay?”

With those words and a small wave, Asatani-san descended the stairs.

It would have been better if she had rejected the confession outright, or if she simply couldn’t see me as a “boyfriend”.

“……Maybe I really got dumped, huh?”

Normally, I don’t use polite language, but I’ve always spoken to Asatani-san in honorifics since middle school. Even after we started dating, I couldn’t break free from such formal behavior.

It’s no wonder I was dumped. I was led by my admiration, thinking that just liking her would be enough. After we started dating, I realized there’s more to it than just feelings, and I had only been inflating my expectations without taking any action.

If even being her “boyfriend” was denied by Asatani-san herself, then there’s no way she would mention a “new girlfriend.”

So, it means I wasn’t able to do what was appropriate for a boyfriend while Asatani-san still thought of me as one, and that’s why I was dumped.

Begging her to tell me why it didn’t work out would only make me a nuisance, lowering my status from an ex-boyfriend to someone she’d rather not even see.

“Argh, I wish I could die…”

Feeling as if all strength had left my body, I sat down on the stairs.

The buzz of students arriving at school was getting louder from below. Yet, until the warning bell rang, I couldn’t bring myself to move from that spot.

I could still exchange messages with Asatani-san on SNS, and we had a promise to share notes, so our connection wasn’t completely severed.

However, if we changed seats, our chances to talk would naturally decrease. Sending messages to a busy person like her would just be a nuisance.

Gradually becoming more distant and then fading out… would I be able to forget about my feelings for her and the happiness I felt when I thought we were dating?

“Hmm?”

My phone vibrated with a new message. It was from Asatani-san, whom I had just parted ways with.

“Better come back soon, or the teacher will get here. Should I answer for you?”

“No, that’d be too obvious…”

Her casual, joking message indicated that dumping me wasn’t a heavy matter for her. We’d be in the same class for a year, which was a relief for me. I tried to ignore the pain, like a thorn in my heart.

I got up and hurried down the stairs, sliding into the classroom just in time, imagining Asatani-san smiling at me with a “friend’s” face.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

I made it back to the classroom and sat in my seat just before the teacher arrived.

“Ahaha, Nagi-kun, you’re sweating so much. Sorry for making you hurry.”

“It’s, it’s fine… It’s just that I was too slow.”

While talking to Asatani-san, I felt sharp gazes piercing me.

I’ve been used to it since the beginning of school, but it’s like they’re wondering, “Why is that unremarkable boy so close to Kiritani Noa?” Both boys and girls seem to think this way, not just a few.

Two guys I’ve started talking to at lunch commented, “Asatani-san is from a different world,” and “Why did she even come to this school?”

I’m glad I never told them that I was dating Asatani-san. If I had, they’d probably think it was just my fantasy. I can imagine the pitying looks I would have received.

I never thought I’d be dumped so abruptly, although I did wonder if it might happen. I couldn’t have imagined it would be today.

How many times have I looked to the right, where Asatani-san sits, in this classroom? I even felt intimidated just to look at her profile.

There’s a seat change scheduled for the extended SHR at the end of the day. The timing of the seat change on the day I was dumped, whether it’s good or bad, is an interesting coincidence.

Even after the seat change, we’ll still be in the same class. I need to get used to the fact that Asatani-san is in the same classroom, that I can see her──thinking that, I looked to the right.

“Ah… Asatani-san?”

She was looking this way and reached out her hand──holding a wet wipe.

“Are you sweating? I thought I’d help you wipe it off. Do you want to use the wipe?”

“No, I shouldn’t take it from you…”

“Don’t be shy, I think it’s suitable for guys too.”

“Thanks…”

Even though she handed it to me, the scent of the wipe was sweet, something that seemed more suited for girls.

Was she always this caring, even when we were just friends?

Even when I was supposedly recognized as her “boyfriend,” she never did anything like this. Although it could be due to the season and less sweating.

“Is this because it’s the end? We’re dumped, the seats are changing, no hard feelings… Not that I hold any…”

I hate my own pettiness. I’m torn over a single sweat wipe.

But then, I can’t help but still like her. That’s right, it’s not like I’ve come to hate her. Even though the result is that I’m not seen as a boyfriend, my admiration doesn’t disappear.

Yet, I must forget. Forget, forget, forget──I keep telling myself, wiping the sweat with the sheet.

“You should wipe your neck too, like this.”

“Ah… Asatani-san…”

Asatani-san took another sheet for herself, pushed up her side tail, and wiped her neck. She also quickly wiped around her collar, but her boldness made me nervous, being in the back of the classroom.

“Ah, it’s quite refreshing. I’m going to appear in a web-only commercial for something similar to this. I got some samples, but I used a product from a different company.”

“Ha, haha… that’s amazing, a commercial.”

“Do you really think so? You don’t seem interested in my work, Nagi-kun.”

──It’s not that I’m not interested. I’m a genuine fan of “Kiritani Noa.”

But I didn’t confess because I was a fan; I fell for the Asatani-san I saw at school. Not wanting to be misunderstood, I never mentioned that I watched her dramas.

“But I feel relieved because you’re like that.”

Asatani-san had asked the girls in the class early on not to treat her as “Kiritani Noa” at school.

But now, I think she would have been happy if I had openly supported her career.

It’s not too late──no, if I say it now, it would just trouble her.

Since she said she felt relieved, I shouldn’t expect too much. I can’t hope to become her boyfriend again. I should have that much dignity.

“I’ll watch that commercial when it comes out.”

“Only if you come across it by accident, okay? You’re not allowed to watch it on purpose.”

“Eh…”

She doesn’t want me to see it? Just as I’m about to feel down, Asatani-san, who had been smiling mischievously, suddenly covers her cheeks, looking embarrassed.

“Because… it’s embarrassing if someone who knows the lines from the commercial hears it…”

Her shy gesture hits me right in the heart──but I shouldn’t, I’ve already been dumped.

As her fan, my heart races, but I don’t want to be seen as a fanatic, so I try my best to maintain my composure.

“Right, this…”

“Thanks, I’ll return it during the lunch break.”

I remembered that she had asked to see my notes, so I handed them over. The refreshing feeling from the wipe was almost negated by the sweat from my excitement. How could I forget being dumped by Asatani-san with things like this happening?

“…Ah. I wonder if someone saw us?”

“I think it’s okay…”

Asatani-san was looking at a girl sitting near the corridor, a student representative who gave a speech, Takane.

Her name and her too-perfect appearance, along with her model-like height, had made a strong impression from the moment she introduced herself at the end of the representative speech.

Asatani-san and Takane-san, two different types of beauties in the same class. Some boys were indecisive about whom to pursue, to which I thought, ‘You don’t match either, especially not Asatani-san,’ which also stung me.

“…………”

Takane-san had been glancing our way for a bit. If she saw us exchanging the notebook, she might think we were being unserious.

Takane-san turned away without saying anything. She was talking to a girl in front of her, but it didn’t seem like she was discussing us.

“Takane-san is really cute, isn’t she? I heard she was the student council president at Kita Middle School.”

I hadn’t known she was a student council president, as she hadn’t mentioned it in her introduction. Just her presence changed the atmosphere of the class, and I was also affected by it.

Asatani-san and Takane-san are completely different types, but both are considered “very cute.” Does that mean Asatani-san admires Takane-san’s cool demeanor? ‘Cool’ was my impression from her composed introduction, but I don’t really know her true nature.

“Nagi-kun, have you seen it? Takane-san is greeted by a crowd of students every day when she comes to school.”

“Eh… Such a dangerous thing happening at school?”

“Ahaha, not a thank-you visit, but people coming to greet her. It must be tough, especially since Takane-san is tall and stands out from afar.”

I had vaguely heard such a story──or rather, actually seen it.

Our school is considered a top academic institution, but as students advance to higher grades, some become rebellious, dyeing their hair within the limits of school rules and wearing earrings.

I saw upperclassmen talking to Takane-san among a crowd. I couldn’t do anything, and listening in would only make me seem suspicious.

“Have you seen the school’s bulletin board? You could consult it if it’s too troublesome.”

“Ah, yes. I did log in because we were told to.”

“The bulletin board is full of serious discussions. Right now, club recruitment is the most lively topic.”

Perhaps Asatani-san, who often misses school, is interested in the bulletin board as a place for consultation when in trouble.

I wish I could casually offer to help, but I couldn’t find the words. I myself would like to consult anonymously on the bulletin board. I don’t know if seniors would give life advice, as I haven’t looked closely yet.

Soon, our young but experienced teacher entered──she has a strong presence, speaking straightforwardly like a boss. I wonder if teaching at this school is that tough.

“Good morning, everyone. Glad to see everyone here. As I mentioned last week, we’ll have a seat change during homeroom. If you really want a specific seat, talk it out among yourselves. That’s all from me. Uh, class representatives will be decided on Wednesday, so until then, Asakura-kun, please lead the command.”

“Yes, attention!”

After the teacher quickly went through the announcements, the classroom buzzed during the five-minute break before class.

Although I knew I shouldn’t, I glanced towards Takane-san. She was watching the teacher leave the room.

“…………”

Did she have something to discuss with the teacher about the “greeting visits” Asatani-san mentioned? It’s wrong of me to worry so much about her.

“Noa-chan, I saw you on TV yesterday. Was that a program promotion?”

“Yeah, something like that… Ah, but don’t call me by that name at school, okay?”

“Sorry, sorry. But everyone on my TL was hyped about it, especially since Ryuto-kun was there too.”

Ryuto──I believe he’s a young actor named Ryuto Fukagawa. Asatani-san isn’t the main lead, but she’s in a prominent role, appearing on variety shows promoting the program together.

On variety shows, Asatani-san is known for her natural character, but she seems different when talking to me.

She’s whimsical and elusive, yet sometimes turns to me──just like a cat. Our family cat also never warms up to me, occasionally approaching just for treats. Still, that’s what makes it adorable.

“You didn’t seem nervous at all with Ryuto-kun, Asatani-san.”

“We’re in the same team and get along well… Uh, what I mean is…”

“Ahaha, don’t believe everything you read online. Fukagawa-san says he doesn’t date at work.”

“Eh, really? With someone as cute as Asatani-san…”

Asatani-san lightly brushes off the comment with a laugh. Hearing this, I wonder how I’d react if there were real dating news about her in the future.

While I was thinking, the girls around Asatani-san suddenly lowered their voices, but I could still hear them being so close.

“Is Asatani-san close with… um, what’s his name…”

“Senada-kun. Remember his name, it’s mean not to.”

“Sorry, sorry. So, you knew each other since middle school? Are you close?”

The girls were probing──it seems unusual to them that Asatani-san talks to me.

“Yeah, we’ve known each other since second year of middle school. Right, Senada-kun?”

“Ah, yeah…”

“If you’re from the same middle school, it makes sense to talk.”

“Really? If you put it that way, you’ll make Senada-kun feel bad.”

Their blunt and insensitive words sting, but more than that, I wonder if “friend” and “acquaintance” mean the same, or if Asatani-san said it that way because of the audience.

After the girls left, Asatani-san seemed to be messaging someone on her phone under the desk.

As I pondered this, my phone in my bag vibrated.

“Sorry for saying ‘acquaintance.’ I didn’t want those girls to make a big deal out of it.”

Knowing what she says and what she thinks are different, it still makes my emotions rollercoaster.

“I don’t mind.”

Even though my reply might seem indifferent, that was all I could manage.

Really, I don’t understand anything about Asatani-san. She’s whimsical, elusive──but still adorable. I realize that she’s out of my league, a beauty far beyond my reach.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

As the morning classes ended, students who planned to use the school store for lunch dashed out, knowing the rush they’d face. The students heading to the cafeteria followed suit.

As for me, I had agreed to have lunch with two classmates who were interested in trying out the cafeteria. About half of the students at our high school use the cafeteria, and it was quite lively.

“This is the famous ‘Hekio Sakura’ karaage rice bowl… Limited to twenty servings a day, and surprisingly, it’s still available.”

“Maybe they’re being nice to the new students? I didn’t see any upperclassmen ordering it.”

The one with spiky hair is Takadera, and the other, a small and well-groomed boy, is Ogishima. All three of us came from different middle schools and ended up eating lunch together rather casually on the first day.

“Senada, where should we sit?”

“How about over there?”

“Nice, let’s go.”

We chose a table near the window, away from the busy center of the cafeteria.

Just as we were about to start eating, Takadera and Ogishima turned to me with serious expressions.

“What’s up…?”

“Well, it was awkward to ask last week since we just met, but Ogishima really wanted to know, so…”

“Hey, it was you who couldn’t sleep thinking about it. Don’t put it all on me.”

“Ah… is it really that…?”

Just mentioning the name made my chest feel heavy. Clearly, I hadn’t moved on yet.

“It’s about me and Asatani-san being from the same middle school, right?”

“Yeah, man. It’s just… you two seem close, even this morning.”

So, we were seen. I felt a cold sweat, reluctant to admit that I’d been dumped.

“It’s natural to be curious when there’s a real celebrity in class. Seeing her on TV feels like a privilege.”

“Yeah, totally. I’ve even searched for ‘Noarin’ a few times, resisting the urge to boast that we’re in the same class.”

“About that… ‘Noarin’… she doesn’t seem to like that nickname.”

“Seriously? That’s shocking for her fans… then how should we address her?”

“Takadera is just a casual fan. You said you were a fan of a different idol, right?”

“Ugh… well, a fan is a fan, even if it started a second ago.”

Takadera’s posts suggest he’s quite into idols. He hasn’t mentioned being in the same class as Kiritani Noa online, which is a relief.

While she’s often treated as an idol online, Asatani-san doesn’t seem to enjoy it much. I should probably tell Takadera about it gently at some point.

“Man, if I were you, Senada, I’d think I’d have a chance with her, being in the same school and even starting off sitting next to each other.”

I nearly choked on his comment. But since I can’t share the truth, I can’t blame Takadera for his innocent remark.

“Well, we’re just classmates, ordinary people.”

“Whoa, that was a cold comment. I’m finally beginning to understand why Takadera got into our school.”

“I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I crammed for the exams over spring break. I’m counting on you guys for a lot of things.”

“Then you better work hard too.”

“Ah, Senada, you’re quite sharp with your retorts. Two clowns and a straight man make a good balance.”

“What are you even talking about… I’m done here.”

I played my part in their banter, and they seemed to really enjoy it. They were more reserved last week, but they’re gradually showing their true colors.

“……Hmm?”

Their conversation shifted to games, but voices from the table behind caught my attention.

“What’s that about Takane Nozomi joining our club?”

“No, turns out she wants to focus on her studies in high school…”

“Then get someone from Kita Middle to persuade her. We had a few girls from there in second year.”

“Good idea, I’ll message them.”

Two senior members of the tennis club were discussing recruiting Takane-san.

Takane-san hadn’t mentioned playing tennis in her self-introduction. Perhaps she didn’t plan to continue tennis in high school.

The seniors didn’t seem pleased, and their tone affected Takadera and Ogishima, who lowered their voices.

“Those guys seem a bit rough, don’t they?”

“Yeah, from the tennis club. There are some scary people there.”

Ogishima had researched various clubs, as we have a month to choose one in high school. He had probably heard about the tennis club.

Their conversation continued, audible even amidst the cafeteria’s noise.

“This morning she just walked off. I’ll talk to her after school.”

“Really? Maybe I’ll join you for a rematch.”

“Don’t call it a rematch. You’ll scare Nozomi-chan.”

The seniors left their seats and appeared to be second-year students.

Takane-san, despite being a standout first-year student, was facing an aggressive recruitment effort. Seeing it firsthand, it felt excessive.

And I couldn’t shake off a bad feeling. The boys seemed more interested in creating a connection with her than in her joining the tennis club.

“Uh, you okay? Want some karaage?”

“Takane-san’s got it tough, being pursued like that. And those guys aren’t even hiding their ulterior motives.”

“……You think so too?”

“Hey, I didn’t catch all of that. Don’t leave me out of the loop!”

Seeing Takadera’s carefree face, I couldn’t bring myself to say that Takane-san might be in trouble.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

Back in the classroom before the next class, Asatani-san returned my notebook.

“Here, Nagi-kun. It was really helpful.”

“Ah, thanks…”

“Don’t mention it. I’m the one who should be thanking you.”

Asatani-san, smiling happily, seemed to have glanced at my notebook, but maybe it was just my imagination.

Classes continued. The time I could spend sitting next to Asatani-san was coming to an end.

After the fifth period ended and then the sixth, it was time for the homeroom and the seat change. The teacher entered with the lottery box for seat assignments.

“Those who want the front seats, two of you. If someone else draws your seat, redraw from that row, one by one.”

Names were called one by one, filling up the seating chart on the blackboard.

I ended up in the second row from the window, at the very back. Asatani-san was seated near the corridor at the front─farther away than before.

Takadera and Ogishima were also seated towards the front. There was one other classmate from my middle school, but we were seated apart.

Second to last to draw was Takane-san. She checked her slip, told the teacher the number, and glanced my way.

“…………”

Our eyes met briefly before she took her seat diagonally in front of me on the left.

The sunlight streaming through the window made Takane-san’s hair shine. Just her silhouette was picturesque.

Despite being in the same class, there was a clear divide. Two such people were in our class.

My new neighbor, Watanabe-san, was part of Asatani-san’s group, minus Asatani-san herself. The other girls came over, commenting on how lucky I was with the seat, even asking to swap.

“Now everyone’s seated. If you really want to change, come talk to me. We’re also considering whether to create a class SNS group for such matters and communication. Take care on your way home.”

The class dispersed without further ado. Takadera and Ogishima had already decided on clubs, so they were off on their own after school.

I had no immediate plans to join a club. In middle school, I was in the reading club, and on days without club activities, I went to a gym known to my family, where I learned some martial arts.

I haven’t been to the gym since starting high school, but I plan to go soon to get some exercise. However, today, I specifically wanted to visit a bookstore near the station.

“Asatani-san, you’re going to watch the drama club, right?”

“We’re going to light music, but do you want to join us after drama club?”

“Yeah, I’m interested in both. But I might not be able to join any clubs, so it might just be a visit. Is that okay?”

“Oh, right. You have work after school on weekdays, don’t you?”

Asatani-san and her group left the classroom. Following them, a different group of girls gathered around Takane-san.

“Do you have any plans after school, Takane-san?”

“We were thinking of having tea and studying somewhere. It’s easier to concentrate than at home.”

“Sorry, I have lessons at home today. Please invite me again.”

When Takane-san apologized, the girls reluctantly left.

“Um, excuse me…”

Watanabe-san, part of Asatani-san’s group, remained and tried to speak to Takane-san. However, her voice was too soft, and Takane-san left without hearing her.

“Oh… sorry. I think I’ll head home too.”

Noticing that I saw her, Watanabe-san apologized awkwardly and quickly left.

While I shouldn’t jump to conclusions, I could guess the situation. If Watanabe-san wanted to say something to Takane-san, it was probably about their seats. The tall Takane-san and the comparatively petite Watanabe-san had a significant height difference. It might be difficult for Watanabe-san to see the blackboard from behind Takane-san.

However, asking Takane-san to swap seats might be difficult, considering some girls are sensitive about their height. Although there are girls who wish to be taller, it’s a delicate subject.

It wasn’t my place to meddle, and it could be a misunderstanding. For now, there was nothing I should do.

But as much as I had a bad feeling, my “hunches” tend to be accurate. I’m not boasting about being good at observing people, but it’s something I notice.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

The school is about a ten-minute walk from the station, and the station-front promenade is a common hangout for students after school.

I had come to the bookstore today to buy a specific book. Not the fashion magazine featuring Asatani-san as a model, but a new manga and a paperback novel.

It was my first time buying such items in my school uniform, so I quickly finished my shopping. I found what I was looking for and was about to head to the cashier when I couldn’t ignore the fashion magazine section and moved closer.

“Oh, there are others here already. Should I wait for a better time…? Wait, those two are…”

I instinctively hid, recognizing two boys from my school in significantly altered uniforms. They were the ones who had been talking about Takane-san in the cafeteria.

“Wow, she really is featured. That’s amazing.”

“Right? Our first year is so lucky, having two beauties like them.”

“If we get involved with Kiritani Noa, maybe we’ll meet other celebrities.”

“So far, she’s been super guarded. If we can get close to Takane Nozomi, maybe we’ll have a chance with Noa too.”

“Yeah, yeah. Man, I’m getting excited.”

If I hadn’t heard their conversation at lunchtime, I might not have paid attention to these boys here.

But I was also there out of curiosity, wanting to buy a magazine because Asatani-san was in it.

Claiming to be a fan, wanting to support her, I was merely disguising my interest. I was drawn to her charm and wanted to know more about her.

“Oh, Misa was successful, huh?”

“Takane Nozomi came? Even she couldn’t dismiss a senior girl, huh?”

I felt a surge of discomfort.

“Wow, that’s a scary face you’re making. We should go.”

The boys haphazardly replaced the magazines and left the store.

I neatly rearranged the magazines they had left disordered, feeling increasingly uneasy, my heartbeat accelerating.

“Thank you very much.”

“Ah…”

A store clerk who had seen me fixing the display thanked me.

Why am I recalling that moment with Asatani-san?

Even then, I felt she was different, but I was too afraid to ask, scared of being dismissed as imagining things.

But was that really okay?

Choosing the safe option, convincing myself it was the right thing, content with not causing any ripples.

Thinking back, if I had acted differently, things might have changed. Was I just comforting myself with the illusion that I had made no mistakes?

“Do you need help finding something?”

The clerk’s concern was appreciated, but I had something I needed to do.

“Sorry, can you hold these for me? I’ll come back for them later.”

“Yes, of course. Would you like us to reserve them?”

“Please!”

I didn’t have time to leave contact details, so I left my student ID as identification and hurried out of the store.

On the cobblestone path towards the station, I saw a group of students in uniform.

The two boys from earlier and three girls—one being Takane-san, escorted by an older female student.

Outside of school, being approached by four seniors. If they were trying to recruit her for a club, it showed how promising a new student she was.

Whether she wanted to join a club or not, I didn’t know.

What I’m about to do might be unnecessary. My sense of justice might run amok, possibly causing inconvenience to a classmate I barely know and ending up disliked.

─It’s not a thank-you visit, but people coming to greet her.

─Takane-san is really having a tough time, being pursued like that. And their ulterior motives are so obvious.

It’s not just a whim, nor do I have a hero complex.

I just don’t want to stand by and do nothing anymore, based merely on my “hunches.”

If I pretended not to see anything and just went home, I would surely regret it.

The boys standing in front of Takane-san were talking smoothly, with one of them providing backup. Two girls were also trying to pull Takane-san into their vibe.

“It’s a waste to quit tennis after middle school, Takane-san. You’re so good at it.”

“Exactly. Even if you’re busy, just coming to practice occasionally would be a huge help.”

They haven’t noticed my presence yet. Even getting close enough to hear their conversation─being labeled as a mysterious introvert for talking with Asatani-san is now working to my advantage.

“I’ve already told you many times, I don’t intend to join any clubs…”

“Don’t say that, let’s talk a bit more.”

“We’re treating you, so why don’t we go to the cafe over there? Just thirty minutes, no, even fifteen will do.”

“Yeah, we’ll chip in too. This guy’s working part-time, so he’s got some cash.”

“No, I’m sorry but…”

Takane-san’s voice became slightly firmer. However, the seniors didn’t take it seriously and just laughed.

“I can’t discuss it, I have no intention of joining a club.”

Then, as if realizing that talking was futile, she bowed and tried to leave.

─But one of the boys grabbed Takane-san’s bag, forcibly stopping her.

“We’re asking you nicely, so can’t you stay for a little while?”

“…”

Trying to be sensible, I tell myself it’s smarter to avoid getting noticed by the seniors.

But the less sensible side of me is giving the middle finger to such cautious thoughts. To hell with that.

And before I knew it, I was already running.

“─Takane-san!”

I shouted louder than I expected. The seniors, who hadn’t noticed me at all, finally turned.

“Good, I made it in time. We were just discussing in class that it would be great if Takane-san could join us… Oh, seniors, do you need something?”

“What’s with this guy? Can’t he read the room?”

“We’re having an important conversation here, go tell your classmates to wait.”

I knew I’d be pestered, but with adrenaline running, the idea of backing down didn’t cross my mind.

“This is important for us too, sorry seniors.”

“What the…”

I grabbed Takane-san’s hand, trying to lead her away, and that’s when it happened.

My usual ‘bad premonition’ crossed my mind. One of the boys, who had been smirking all along, suddenly went expressionless.

What he’s trying to do─he’s about to trip me.

I have several ideas of what I should do. It’s not the most pleasant way, but if they won’t back off, I’ll choose a way to ‘make them back off.’

“─Whoa!”

I lost my balance as my foot was tripped, falling down and then crouching on the spot.

“Ow, that hurts…”

“What the… What are you doing? That’s too much.”

“I didn’t do anything…”

The senior girls started panicking, and the boy who tried to trip me looked flustered.

“This is bad… let’s go!”

“What about him?”

“We can’t stay here, let’s go!”

It seems passersby have gathered around─I managed to make it work, but now I need to think about what to do next.

“Are you okay, Senada-kun… We need to get you some first aid.”

“It’s okay, I can walk on my own.”

Relying on the streetlights, I stood up, reassured the gathered crowd that I was fine, and then moved away from the scene.

Once out of sight in a quieter alley, I finally looked back.

“…”

Takane-san, who had followed me, looked at me with deep concern.

I always thought she was cool and seldom smiled, so I felt a profound sense of guilt for making her show such a worried expression.

“Ah… um, sorry, I thought it might be unnecessary, but…”

“It’s not unnecessary at all. You came to help me, right?”

Takane-san approached me─then, she started dusting off the dirt and dust from my uniform.

“I’m sorry, for getting you involved because of me…”

At this point, I can’t avoid explaining myself. What I did back there was just an act – I pretended to trip after my foot was seemingly caught.

A basic principle of self-defense is to not let your opponent have their way. Part of that is learning how to make someone fall, as well as avoiding being tripped yourself. In this case, I just pretended to stumble while taking the fall, adding a bit of an act of being in pain. It was a snap decision, but I’m glad it worked out.

“Back there, I just dodged because it looked like they were going to trip me. I haven’t hurt myself at all. And about the class gathering, I just made that up on the spot…”

“Why did you go to such lengths for me?”

“That’s because… I heard rumors about Takane-san having a tough time with the club recruitment, and I thought that might be the case now. Sorry for the sudden intervention, really.”

To Takane-san, it must have been surprising for a classmate to suddenly get involved. It was a desperate measure to help her, and pretending to fall and then acting fine might make me seem like a weirdo─I should probably just leave quickly.

She might be wondering what kind of stories are being spread about her without her knowledge. Surely, she wouldn’t feel good about it.

“The seniors from the promenade probably won’t come back, so it’s better to head home now. Take care…”

“…”

Before I could finish, she stopped me─grabbing the elbow of my uniform.

“Why are you in such a hurry to leave? You look like someone who’s done something wrong.”

“Ah… sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

Seeing Takane-san looking straight at me, her eyes sharp yet seeming anxious…

I had made assumptions about her based on her height, cool appearance, and seemingly different world she lived in.

But Takane-san is a classmate, a fellow student. She must feel scared being aggressively recruited or surrounded by seniors.

“…Senada-kun, are you really not hurt?”

“Yeah, I’m really okay. Can’t show it, but I don’t even have a scratch.”

“That’s good… I was really worried. But now that you mention it, it was a really neat fall.”

“Ha ha… well, it’s about the only thing I’m good at.”

I didn’t do it for thanks. Such a thought is just bravado.

I’m relieved it wasn’t a misunderstanding and that I could help her. Just feeling relieved about that is more than enough for me.

“…So, I’m gonna do some shopping and then head home.”

I was about to leave, saying to be careful on her way home─but then, I stopped again.

This time, she lightly tugged at the hem of my uniform. Just a gentle pinch, but I couldn’t just shake it off.

“…Do you get embarrassed when thanked, Senada-kun?”

“No, it’s not that, it’s just… it’s not something that needs thanking.”

“It is. If I didn’t thank you for this, it would be strange.”

“I guess so…”

In front of a beautiful girl, my awkwardness becomes evident, something I acutely feel needs to change.

“And… um… I feel bad asking this, Senada-kun…”

Takane-san seemed to struggle to find the right words.

“…What is it?”

Her nervousness was contagious. I was already tense, and the added pressure was almost too much.

“…With what happened earlier… could you accompany me to the station?”

“Oh… right, that makes sense.”

I must have seemed presumptuous to ask, but it’s actually my responsibility to make sure. If those guys come back, the lie about the class gathering would be exposed.

“Um… then, shall we go to the station?”

“…Yes. Thank you, Senada-kun.”

Though it seemed unlikely, she looked relieved as if she was afraid I’d say no. Her smile bloomed like a flower, making me smile too.

Tall, stylish, mature, a girl who turns heads as she walks by. And yet, there I was, thinking she seemed like a puppy, gently tugging at my uniform’s hem.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

We avoided the main street of the promenade to be less conspicuous and took a different route to the station.

“…”

As we reached the turnstile, Takane-san pulled a wristwatch out of her bag to check the time.

I caught a glimpse of it – the dial had an illustration of an animal character. It was surprisingly cute, and again, I found it unexpected.

“It’s almost time for the train.”

Was this where I should say goodbye? With what happened earlier, perhaps I should see her off until she boards the train.

“Then, let’s go to the platform.”

“…”

Takane-san seemed flustered─perhaps concerned about the cost of a short-distance ticket.

“I thought I’d look around the shops inside the station. My family likes the sweets they sell there.”

“…Cream puffs? I always see a line there.”

“Yeah, exactly.”

Now that I’ve said it, I should buy some, though my family will be happy regardless.

As I buy the entrance ticket, Takane-san quietly follows.

“…”

Feeling watched, I turn to see Takane-san taking out her wallet.

“Don’t worry about it. My job is to make sure Takane-san gets on the train safely.”

“But…”

“I wish I could see you cheer up and be reassured, but maybe it’s too much to ask for so suddenly.”

We haven’t talked much so far, and I don’t think Takane Nozomi can switch her mood that easily.

Takane Nozomi looks a bit troubled. She doesn’t put away her wallet and keeps gazing at me intently.

“…I want to make sure to handle these kinds of things properly.”

Instead of coins, Takane Nozomi pulls out a card from her wallet.

“Uh, Takane Nozomi, I don’t think I can accept this.”

“Is… is my card not okay?”

“It’s not that it’s not okay, but I think I’d get in trouble if I used it.”

“Oh… right, I see. Sorry, I don’t usually carry cash with me. I thought it might be necessary for places like the cafeteria, so I’ll make sure to bring some tomorrow.”

“That makes it sound like I’m threatening you to bring money…”

“No… that’s not it…”

Watching the flustered Takane Nozomi, I couldn’t help but laugh, feeling a bit sorry.

“…Did you think I was naive?”

“Sorry, just a bit. But I’m not laughing in a bad way.”

“If it’s not in a bad way, then what do you mean…?”

“I was just thinking how serious you are, Takane Nozomi.”

“…Is that… not a bad thing?”

“No, it’s not. You’re so insistent on returning even just a little over a hundred yen…”

“It’s not about the amount. Money is important.”

I find her seriousness appealing. Although it’s a bit risky for someone I just met to offer their card like that.

“This isn’t a credit card, it’s just a prepaid card with my allowance.”

“I see… but still, no thanks. We should get going soon, we don’t have much time.”

“Ah!”

Takane Nozomi exclaims as she sees the electronic bulletin board. It seems we’ve missed the train we were supposed to take.

“We shouldn’t miss the next one. Let’s go.”

“Yes, sorry…”

“I’m not in a hurry, but what about you, Takane Nozomi? Do you have plans after this?”

“I have a lesson, but I’ll make it if I catch the next train.”

I remember what she mentioned in the classroom. She probably planned to go home and relax before her lesson.

As we pass through the ticket gate, the rush hour crowd is thick. I worried we might get separated, but Takane Nozomi is following close behind me.

“Uh, Takane Nozomi?”

“I’m sorry. There were so many people, I thought I might lose you.”

As we make our way through the crowd, Takane Nozomi lightly pinches my elbow. She lets go quickly, looking apologetic and bashful.

“It’s embarrassing, isn’t it, holding onto someone in public?”

She’s just nervous and holding onto me for reassurance. I should say something to make her feel more comfortable.

“I won’t leave you behind, Takane Nozomi. You don’t need to worry.”

“…”

(What am I saying, making it even more embarrassing…)

I got carried away and said something I wouldn’t usually say. It’s okay to hold onto my arm as much as you want, or something like that – no, that sounds a bit frivolous.

“I understand. I’ll make sure not to lose sight of you.”

We have this adventurous conversation at a station we’ll use countless times in the future.

This time, I smiled more naturally. Takane Nozomi slowly lifts her head and smiles too.

Her hair falls over her cheeks as she brushes it aside, looking like something out of a painting.

This is the second time today that she’s captivated me with her calm demeanor and the rare smiles she shows.

But this opportunity to talk with Takane Nozomi is probably just for today.

Once today is over, we’ll just be classmates at school, and probably won’t talk much. It’s always been like that, so it’s natural.

As we reach the platform, there are only a few minutes until the next train.

Even as I think about what to talk about next, only mundane topics come to mind.

“Huh?”

I turn around, but Takane Nozomi isn’t there. I thought she was following me – and then I feel a tug on my uniform’s elbow. Turning around, I see Takane Nozomi standing there.

“Please have this on your way back.”

“Thank you…”

What Takane Nozomi hands me is a can of coffee. It’s a bit muggy today in April, so a cold drink is honestly welcome.

“Please let me thank you properly another time. You’ve helped me so much today, from start to finish.”

“This is enough for me. If you’re in trouble again, you can ask me for help if you want. Oh, but… maybe it’s better to talk to a teacher about today’s matter.”

“Yes. Next time, not in this way…”

Her words are cut off by an announcement on the platform. Across the tracks, the next train is approaching.

“Thank you so much for today. See you tomorrow, Chida-kun.”

“See you tomorrow, Takane Nozomi.”

Takane Nozomi raises her hand in a small wave, showing a shy smile before boarding the arriving train.

From inside the train, Takane Nozomi is still looking my way. As the train starts to move, we wave at each other one last time.

As the train disappears into the distance, I open the can of coffee she gave me and take a sip. It tastes unusually sweet, but that sweetness feels just right for now.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

After buying a book I had reserved at the bookstore and riding back home on my bicycle parked nearby, I found that my older sister had already returned home.

“So, you came back without even asking for her contact information?”

As I enjoyed the cream puffs I had bought, my sister queried. Even though I had offered her favorite treat, her curiosity about what happened today was unyielding, and she wasn’t letting me off the hook.

“Ruru-neesan, you’ve got powdered sugar on your mouth.”

“That’s not important. Nacchan, when it comes to these things, boys should take the initiative. If you had done that, maybe we could have had a comforting chat tonight.”

“I mean, what am I supposed to talk about…”

“You rescued her from a pushy senior, right? She might be feeling insecure about it now and then. If you had reassured her by saying ‘I’m here for you,’ wouldn’t she have fallen for you?”

“That wouldn’t happen.”

“Ehh?”

Ruru-neesan reached for a second cream puff, seemingly disappointed, but thankfully she left some for our parents, barely maintaining her dignity as an elder sister.

Ruru-neesan came up behind where I was sitting on the living room sofa and placed her hand on my shoulder. This was her way of saying she wasn’t done talking.

“Nacchan, are you keeping anything else a secret?”

“Eh…”

“You seem in good spirits, but sometimes you look down. If you’re okay with it, your big sister is here to listen.”

“At this age, consulting with my sister…”

“Ah, I get it from that reaction. Something happened with Kiri-chan, right?”

Why she would think that… I didn’t indulge in a cliché reaction, but I felt the terrifying accuracy of a girl’s intuition.

“More than Kiri-chan, are you getting interested in that Takane girl…?”

“…Asatani-san turned me down.”

I tried to say it nonchalantly, but my voice betrayed my dejection.

“Not just what you think, but did Kiri-chan actually say that?”

“Yeah… she said something about ‘friends are important.’ That basically means that, right?”

“Ah… That might make you feel like she doesn’t see you as a boy.”

“She let me down gently. Being just friends is totally fine for me…”

“Doing that strong front again. Nacchan, you’ve always been like this.”

“…I can’t make a face like I’m shocked, right? That’s why I want to act normal.”

The hand on my shoulder lifted for a moment. When I cautiously looked back, my sister was poised with open arms.

“Ruru-neesan, at this age, that’s…”

“Chh, you should let your big sister pamper you at times like this.”

“Don’t click your tongue… Anyway, I’m not down, and Takane-san is just a classmate.”

“That depends on Nacchan from now on, right? You just started high school a week ago. You have to cherish new encounters. It’s all about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, right?”

Watching my overly positive sister, I couldn’t stay down for long. Really, having an infinitely generous sister is what matters.

“Ah, you smiled. If you can watch Kiri-chan on TV without getting upset, you pass.”

“You know… I was just starting to feel grateful, but you ruined it.”

“Then, channel that gratitude into cleaning the bath. I’ll prepare dinner.”

Ruru-neesan tied her hair with a scrunchie and put on an apron to start cooking.

Chida Ruru, that’s my sister’s full name. But calling her by her first name directly feels too flashy, so she forbids it.

Even so, she’s sensitive to changes in my mood. I initially thought I shouldn’t have talked about being turned down so easily, but speaking about it did lighten my heart.

“Ruru-neesan, thanks.”

“Eh, what?”

“Nothing.”

Heading to clean the bathroom, I checked my phone for the first time in several hours and noticed a message from Asatani-san.

(Uh-oh… That’s from when I was at the station, isn’t it?)

I didn’t know what the message was about, but there was a missed call.

I couldn’t fathom what Asatani-san was thinking – she hardly ever contacted her boyfriend, and now this change of heart was baffling.

Knowing it was probably too late, I texted back, “Sorry, is something wrong?” But the message remained unread for the rest of the day, leaving me with a restless night.

After finishing my piano lesson and dinner with my family, I completed my homework before bath time. I always try to be in bed by 10:30 PM.

“…………”

Opening my assignment notebook, I held my mechanical pencil and found my mind drifting back to what happened on the street in front of the station.

“Takane-san!”

When I heard that voice, I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was reality or a dream.

I understood that the boy who came running from behind was someone I knew, but the fact that he had come to my rescue didn’t feel real, and all I could do was stand there and watch.

“I’m glad I made it in time. Our class was getting together today, and we were hoping Takane-san could join if possible…”

At first, I believed what he said more than the seniors did.

Maybe such a thing could happen. If he’s out of breath saying this, then perhaps…

But on second thought, such an event seemed unlikely.

No one around me had mentioned getting together as a class. Some girls invited me to a fast-food joint to study, but it wasn’t like a mixed gathering.

The girls in the center of our class, including Asatani-san, had talked about stopping by here today on their way.

Asatani-san is a famous high school talent known as “Kiriya Noa,” and even someone like me, who’s not into TV, knows her name. Since the beginning of school, she’s been the center of attention in our class, regardless of gender.

Without Asatani-san’s participation, a class gathering seemed improbable. He must have had some reason to say something different from the truth.

Yet, even under the stern gazes of the seniors, he was undaunted, as if he wasn’t afraid at all.

“Ah, seniors, did you need something?”

When I was surrounded by the seniors, I was about to resign myself to their persuasion. But he acted so nonchalantly, yet his words were powerful.

Tennis has been one of my hobbies since childhood. I participated in the club activity throughout middle school without much absence and achieved satisfying results.

I didn’t research about the tennis club at Aozakura Academy because I wanted to start something new in high school.

But maybe for those who knew me as a player, my not continuing tennis seemed like an insufficient reason.

But, actually.

Despite saying they wanted to talk to me alone, the senior girls took me to the male upperclassmen, and I was full of words I wanted to say.

–Did you ask me to come here?

–Doing this kind of persuasion seems like a rule violation.

However, I couldn’t find the words to express myself. My emotions were brimming, yet I had to appear unafraid, or else they would take advantage of me. I tried to look calm.

Even though I wanted to run away, my legs wouldn’t move. The seniors glared at him as he arrived behind me. I thought, at least I shouldn’t cause him trouble.

“We have important matters to attend to as well. Sorry, seniors.”

When I saw him in the classroom, he seemed to be very cautious around Asatani Kiri.

Since Asatani-san is quite charming, I thought maybe he was conscious of her.

But he also seemed to be easily swayed by her, and though I thought he was kind-hearted, I didn’t have a very good impression of him.

—I should have realized sooner.

The way “he” acted around Asatani-san was just special.

The real “him”—Chida Nagito-kun. I had seen what he was really like once before.

When he stepped in front of the seniors and took my hand, my mind almost went blank.

It wasn’t because I was bewildered.

My heart was so full that I couldn’t think of anything else.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

Just calling him “Chida-kun” took courage.

He never noticed these things, but as we spent time together, I gradually became able to talk to him without feeling nervous.

I was happy just being able to talk about trivial things. I wanted to thank him repeatedly for coming to my rescue, but thinking it might seem weird, I decided to keep pretending to be calm.

I can’t count how many times I had to take deep breaths without him noticing. I had experienced hyperventilation before, but this was the first time it happened because I was conscious of someone.

Even though he seemed to have fallen due to the seniors’ actions, once we entered an alley and made sure no one was watching, he looked as if nothing had happened.

The seniors were surprised by his agility and didn’t notice he had skillfully broken his fall.

“…Chida-kun, are you really not hurt?”

“No, really, I’m fine. I can’t show you, but I don’t even have a scratch.”

He seemed truly unharmed, but his uniform was a bit dirty with sand. I felt terrible and wanted to do anything I could to apologize.

But I realized that if I said it that way, he would surely be too modest, as I noticed his face turning red.

Chida-kun is an amazing person, but he’s excessively humble.

I could see that Asatani-san relied on Chida-kun, but he was still too reserved. That’s why I thought he was just being led by her.

I had misjudged him, thinking he was someone who gets swept away easily or is weak against pressure. All that was just my biased perception.

“…Then, I’ll go shopping and head home.”

When he suddenly said that, I almost asked him to wait.

I had no right to hold him back. I had already taken up his time and caused him trouble.

Yet, my hand moved on its own.

I should never do such a thing, but I ended up grabbing the hem of Chida-kun’s uniform.

He stayed for me, stopping in his tracks. I could feel my face getting hot, and in a moment of stubbornness, I ended up saying something to gauge his reaction.

“…Do you get embarrassed when thanked, Chida-kun?”

I blush even thinking about it now. I was just as unsettled as him, but I still said that.

“No, it’s not that, it’s just… it’s not something to be thanked for…”

If he couldn’t accept my words of gratitude, I wanted to find another way to thank him. I was too eager, and I realized I couldn’t keep up my composed act at all.

Even now, recalling those moments, the happiness outweighs the embarrassment, making me restless.

He escorted me to the station, and we were able to wave goodbye.

Before the train doors closed, I wondered if he would be troubled if I suddenly got off the train.

Even though I couldn’t possibly do that, the thought amused me—but then.

From the moving train, I saw the scene on the platform. Beyond the timetable was a figure in Aozakura Academy’s uniform.

I don’t know why he was there. Whether he noticed us or not, I couldn’t tell—by the time I noticed him, he wasn’t looking our way.

Suddenly, my heart started to flutter. If only I could contact him through phone, email, or social media. Remembering how I couldn’t think of anything but giving him a drink when we parted, I buried my face in my desk.

(…If I had asked for his contact information, it would’ve seemed like I wanted to rely on Chida-kun from now on…I couldn’t ask.)

I had never envied people who naturally exchanged contacts after meeting until now. Thinking I would just exchange contacts when needed, I realized there was a major flaw in how I interacted with people.

If I really wanted someone’s contact, I had to ask for it myself. But if Chida-kun refused… just imagining it made my heart ache, and I became scared of going to school the next day.

Before I knew it, an hour had passed at my desk, and I hadn’t made much progress with my homework. It was almost time to take a bath.

I can’t show Chida-kun, sitting so close to me, any embarrassing side of myself.

If our seats are this close, we might talk again.

By the way, Watanabe-san, who sits behind me, can he see the blackboard? I started growing taller in middle school and was always told to sit in the back.

(If Watanabe-san can’t see the board… and we switch seats, then Chida-kun and I…)

I shook my head at the thought that came to mind.

If Watanabe-san couldn’t see the blackboard, we should switch seats. Expecting that when I want to myself is convenient thinking.

But once I thought about it, the idea of sitting next to Chida-kun kept coming back to me.

Until my mom called me to take a bath, I couldn’t focus on my homework, just kept thinking about him.

§§◇◆◇◆§§

Eventually, I didn’t get a read receipt from Asatani-san all morning, and somehow I woke up early and started doing morning studies, which I usually don’t do.

I have to wake up my sister, who is not a morning person, to make sure she gets to school on time. Ruru-neesan goes to a girls’ school in the city and is currently a third-year student.

“Ruru-neesan, if you don’t get up soon, you’ll have to go to school with toast in your mouth.”

“Mmm, noo, I want to eat fish…”

“Alright, you’re awake then.”

I don’t wait around to make sure she’s fully awake. Ruru-neesan tends to toss and turn in bed, so it’s common for her pajamas to be disheveled when she gets out of the covers.

Normally, I’d have breakfast with her before leaving the house, but today I’m already prepared to go out.

I haven’t checked why Asatani-san called me—I feel like I shouldn’t look until I figure it out. The magazine she models in is still in its bag.

I know such courtesies aren’t necessary in our current relationship. If a male friend bought a magazine featuring her, it might be seen as odd, possibly even a sign of lingering feelings.

“…Nacchan, good morning. What’s up? You look as stern as Fudo Myoo.”

“I’m just worried about something… You woke up surprisingly early.”

“I thought you’d leave without me, then I see you standing there, furrowing your brow. It almost opened my third eye in surprise.”

“Too much energy for the morning. What’s with the joke?”

“Eh? I thought it would make Nacchan smile.”

I can’t deny it might have worked. Feeling outsmarted, I avert my gaze from Ruru-neesan and belatedly point out.

“You should try to fix that habit of unbuttoning your pajamas when it’s hot.”

“Eh? Oh, Nacchan, acting all grown-up. Who do you think washed your underwear yesterday?”

“The automatic washing machine did.”

“Correct! I grant you the right to neatly fold your big sister’s clothes!”

“I’ll consider it. Ruru-neesan, I’m going ahead today.”

“Ah, did you make up with Kiri-chan last night?”

Far from it—she hasn’t even replied to my messages yet. However, Ruru-neesan’s casual use of “make up” stings a bit.

It’s possible Asatani-san is upset because I didn’t answer the phone. But I can’t imagine her getting angry just because a friend didn’t pick up.

“Right after entering high school, Nacchan’s already troubled by a girl… Is this some kind of high school debut?”

I suppose getting rejected right after entering school means my debut failed, but then again, I never intended to “debut.” Maybe that’s just me being defiant.

I could have met up somewhere in the morning and gone to school together. There were countless things I wanted to do once I entered high school, but even if they’re all gone, I still have to go to school.

I never thought being troubled by a love affair could make it hard to go to school, but it could easily have been me.

It’s thanks to my sister, who doesn’t take things too seriously, that I haven’t become like that.

“I better start picking out clothes for when Nacchan goes on a date. Wait until the end of the month for my part-time job pay. Then I’ll get some money and take you shopping.”

“You’re just planning to play around with my wardrobe… Use your money and time more effectively.”

Saying something considerate, I manage to get Ruru-neesan to let me go. She’s too easy to sway, and as a brother, that worries me. Please be more careful, big sister.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

Riding my usual city bike, I leave the urban area heading to school.

It’s still early, so there aren’t many students around. I park my bike in the school’s bicycle shed and take a deep breath before walking.

I could encounter Asatani-san at any moment. Although she sometimes misses school for work, she usually arrives early. She’s punctual and even once arrived fifteen minutes early for an outing related to our club activities.

That time, because I was with Asatani-san, I also arrived early, creating our only brief connection.

Members of the small reading and astronomy clubs, whose presidents are close friends, occasionally hang out together on holidays. Being mostly girls, I, a boy, usually didn’t join, but that time, due to various reasons…

(I don’t know how to face Asatani-san… No, we’re just friends now, so there’s no need to force a conversation. But I should apologize in person for missing her call. She hasn’t read my message yet… huh?)

Lost in thought, I hadn’t noticed her reply.

“Don’t worry about it. It was just a small matter. You were busy, right, Nagi-kun?”

(Is Asatani-san upset?)

The message seems to understand my situation, but it feels ominously unsettling.

I’m guilty for being with another girl—Takane-san. I can’t deny that, but not seeing Takane-san off was never an option.

Asatani-san hasn’t told me why she called. Should I ask directly, or just reply safely and end the conversation?

“…Uh.”

“Ah, sorry, I was just thinking…”

I respond reflexively to a familiar voice, then realize who it is.

Turning around, I see Takane-san standing there.

She doesn’t usually bike to school, so there’s no reason for her to be here. I hadn’t expected to meet her at the bike shed.

(Is it just a coincidence she’s here? But if Takane-san is here, it must mean something.)

“…Um, do you remember me?”

“No, I couldn’t forget. Good morning, Takane-san.”

“…!?”

Her reaction is surprisingly intense, as if my greeting was that unexpected.

“…Good morning, Chida-kun.”

Once I’ve seen her, I couldn’t forget her, even without talking.

She seems different from yesterday—her long hair is lightly curled at the ends. Such a small change alters her impression significantly. Depending on her styling, Takane-san could become infinitely beautiful.

“Thank you for yesterday.”

“How did your lesson go?”

“Thanks to you, I made it in time. My piano teacher leaves if you’re not there on time… I’m glad I got back with some leeway.”

“You play piano, too, Takane-san? And you were amazing at tennis, too. You’re really talented.”

“No, it’s just… I’ve been doing it since I was a child.”

The word ‘talented’ doesn’t do justice to the effort Takane-san has put in.

Yet, she doesn’t plan to continue tennis in high school. If those seniors had recruited her, anyone would lose the desire to continue, but her reasons are likely different.

“I’m thinking of joining a cultural club in high school… I’d like to enjoy tennis personally.”

“I like tennis too, though I’m not very good at it.”

“Yes. I kept doing it because I liked it. I still like it.”

“Oh, right…”

I feel strangely uneasy hearing her repeat ‘like’, as if I’m out of place.

(She’s too pretty… An angel is the only way to describe her.)

The idea of a cool, unapproachable beauty was just a surface-level impression.

Her calm way of speaking and her clear, soothing voice provide a sense of comfort. It’s as if heaven has mistakenly given her an abundance of gifts.

“Have you decided which club to join, Chida-kun?”

“If I’m going to join a club, I should decide soon… I haven’t even gone to observe any yet, so maybe I’ll do that today.”

“Um, if it’s okay with you, could you let me know which club you decide on?”

Takane-san seems interested in which club I’ll choose, perhaps as a reference for her own decision. While I don’t mind sharing, I wonder if my ordinary choices will be of any use to the high-achieving Takane-san.

At this school, joining a club isn’t mandatory. The school handbook says, “It is recommended to join a committee, school-related activity, or a club.”

So not joining is also an option, but my sister insists I join one. The experience of a cultural festival in a club is entirely different from attending it with no club affiliation. She wants me to join the drama club and play opposite the lead, Asatani-san, which is an absurd idea. However, if there’s a club that seems interesting, I’m not opposed to joining.

“I’ll let you know once I decide.”

“Really…?”

“Yeah. I’m also curious about what club you’ll join, Takane-san.”

“That is… what should I say…”

“If it’s still a secret, you don’t have to tell me. The music club… maybe you want to try something other than what you do at home?”

“…It’s a secret. I’ll tell you when you tell me.”

She got me there—this is a clear case of quid pro quo.

However, it’s hard to initiate a conversation with Takane-san in the classroom. She shares the spotlight with Asatani-san, always surrounded by other classmates.

If I want to ensure we can communicate reliably, I should… just as I was about to consider exchanging phone numbers, the bicycle shed started getting busy with more students arriving.

“…Should we head to class?”

“That is… walking together with me…”

Walking with Takane Nozomi—the idea that some nobody is accompanying her is bound to draw intense scrutiny.

“…Shall we go?”

Her words are slightly different, but there’s a significant change from the first time she asked—it’s in her eyes.

Takane-san’s eyes are slightly moist, filled with an anxious vulnerability that makes her look like a worried puppy.

(Should I… be walking with Takane-san to class…?)

We live in different worlds. She’s at the top of the school caste system, and I’m just an ordinary guy. Yesterday’s events were special, but today, we’re just classmates again.

The safety nets I had are disappearing one by one. My peaceful daily life—I don’t want it to end, but it doesn’t seem like it will continue as is.

Yesterday, I managed to speak naturally. Remembering that, I brace myself, casting a spell of courage, convincing myself that I’m invincible until we reach the classroom.

“Yeah, let’s go.”

“…Yes!”

Her response is incredibly joyful. I swear I can see dog ears and a wagging fluffy tail on her.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

As we emerge from behind the school building, I had a feeling we’d encounter someone.

Near the entrance, the two boys who tried to recruit Takane-san yesterday were standing—pretending to roam around, as if to say they weren’t waiting for anyone.

“What should we do?”

I glance back at Takane-san, who’s a little behind. She initially looked anxious, but then she firmly met my gaze and said,

“Please lend me your strength again, Chida-kun.”

“Understood. Then let’s discuss ‘yesterday’s matter.'”

We need to fundamentally change the situation that makes Takane-san feel anxious during her commute. This is the first step.

I slow down, signaling Takane-san to catch up a bit.

We walk side by side, engaging in harmless conversation.

“The cream puffs I bought yesterday were a hit with my family. My sister almost ate two but held back.”

“Hehe… Chida-kun’s sister sounds very kind.”

“Eh, how so?”

“Because she’s Chida-kun’s sister.”

“Ah, I see… I’m not particularly kind, though. Just average, I guess.”

“If Chida-kun is average, the world would probably be free of wars.”

(I thought we were just having a normal conversation, but… Takane-san’s opinion of me seems way too high…)

As we talk, the tennis club guys notice Takane-san—first smirking, then their expressions change dramatically upon seeing me beside her.

“Hey, what… is that guy doing with Takane Nozomi…?”

The upperclassmen, who were overly familiar and confident, are visibly shocked.

“No way… Those two are together… what?”

The other guy reacts similarly. If they were recruiting Takane-san with ulterior motives, this should make it more difficult.

(Still, they probably won’t give up easily… but…)

A feeling creeps up that I’m missing something crucial.

“Chida-kun, you were showing Asatani-san your notes, weren’t you?”

“Ah, yeah… Asatani-san and I went to the same middle school.”

Nothing I said was wrong, but using “the same middle school” as an excuse makes me feel uneasy.

“I guess you can get along with both boys and girls. I’m not so good at talking to boys… I need to fix my shyness.”

I don’t think Takane-san is shy; rather, she’s incredibly reserved.

A cool and untouchable beauty on the outside, but there’s a big gap once you talk to her. The more I discover about her beyond my first impression, the more her charm grows.

So, walking with someone as ordinary as me shouldn’t cause any misunderstandings. I convince myself of this and decide to walk and talk with her to ward off any recruitment attempts.

That’s why I never expected anyone to say this.

“Are those two dating?”

“…”

(What…!?)

I don’t know who said it. When I look, there’s a group of girls, including Asatani-san. It wasn’t Asatani-san’s voice; it was one of the girls with her.

Asatani-san looks at us. Her expression is something I’ve never seen before—akin to her acting a role as an actress. It’s captivating, stirring emotions just by looking.

Her gaze doesn’t linger on us for long before shifting away. While Asatani-san looks elsewhere, the two girls continue talking.

“They just happened to meet on the way to school, right? Those two don’t seem to have much in common.”

“Takane-san is really popular, isn’t she? It’s unlikely she’d pick him.”

“We shouldn’t gossip; they might hear us.”

“Ah… sorry, I mean, Asatani-san, not ‘Noarin.'”

“Yep, it’s ‘Noarin’ here. But remember, I said calling me that is off-limits.”

Asatani-san stepped in to stop the gossip among her friends.

She has that kind of character. Being a celebrity herself, she knows how hurtful unfounded rumors spread on the internet can be, so she avoids spreading baseless gossip.

“…………”

“Takane-san?”

“No, it’s nothing… I’m fine.”

Takane-san assured with a smile, seemingly unaffected by the gossip that was obviously intended for her to overhear.

We change into our indoor shoes and head to the classroom. I thought Takane-san would part ways with me here, but she diligently waited.

Walking to the classroom, with all the other students from our grade paying attention, Takane-san said to me,

“I don’t care about what others say. Talking with you, Chida-kun, has been really enjoyable.”

Even amidst the surrounding noise, her voice clearly reached my ears.

After entering the classroom, Takane-san, seated diagonally in front of me, turned back once and smiled. It seemed like she was happy about our seats being close.

Chida-kun usually arrives at school early, but I never saw him before me.

I always get to school thirty minutes before the start, and I thought I would never see him at that time. When I saw him entering the school gate on his bicycle, I found myself running after him.

Chasing him to the bicycle shed could make him think I have special feelings for him. But he seemed surprised at first, yet didn’t doubt my intentions.

I was able to ask him to let me know which club he decides to join.

And while walking from the bicycle shed to the entrance, I mustered the courage to ask him to walk with me.

“…Shall we go?”

“That is… walking together with me…”

I thought he might refuse, and the idea of being turned down made me feel embarrassingly dejected.

Yesterday was special because Chida-kun was kind enough to walk me to the station.

I tried to convince myself of that, but couldn’t.

“…Won’t you go?”

My family’s Shih Tzu, Cocoa, always looks sad when I leave. I probably looked just as pitiful.

I didn’t want to burden Chida-kun, yet I found myself expressing my desire to stay with him a bit longer.

Chida-kun seemed to be pondering something. Thinking it would be better to go to the classroom separately, I almost gave up.

—But then, Chida-kun smiled gently.

“Yeah, let’s go.”

At that moment, I thought I should pamper Cocoa a lot when I got home.

I never knew how joyful it was to have someone respond to my wish to be together until now.

Even seeing the tennis club seniors waiting near the entrance, I felt no anxiety while talking to Chida-kun.

But in middle school, I often became the subject of rumors whenever I talked to boys in front of everyone.

“Are those two dating?”

It was Yamaguchi-san’s voice from my class. She’s outspoken and doesn’t hold back her thoughts.

I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but she made it sound like a jest, even though Chida-kun agreed to walk with me just out of kindness.

Then, I noticed one of the girls with Yamaguchi-san looking our way.

—Asatani Kiri. She’s always at the center of the classroom, brightening the atmosphere just by being there, a person with a natural radiance.

The look she gave me was neither warm nor cold, devoid of any temperature.

Whenever Chida-kun talked with her, she was always smiling, so dazzling that I found it blinding. But today, something was different.

“It’s not good to spread rumors, they might hear us.”

I might be overthinking it. Maybe I’m just being self-conscious because I’m with Chida-kun.

But if it’s not just my imagination…

What I saw from the train yesterday. At that time, looking toward Chida-kun on the platform—was Asatani-san.

“…………”

“Takane-san?”

Chida-kun, concerned, spoke to me, and I thought I shouldn’t mention it yet. I didn’t know if Asatani-san wanted me to.

“It’s just… something I noticed.”

Saying that, I could sense Chida-kun’s spirits weren’t as high.

Walking into the school building and on the way to the classroom, I kept thinking about something important I wanted to say—and then I said it.

“I don’t mind what others say. Chida-kun, you’re a wonderful person.”

Chida-kun looked a bit surprised, then shyly smiled.

Seeing his bashful face, even after sitting down, I wanted to turn back and look at him.

I peeked at Chida-kun, sitting diagonally behind me, our eyes met, and we smiled at each other.

I still don’t know what happened between Asatani-san and Chida-kun.

But I feel that understanding is not far off. Remembering the look in Asatani-san’s eyes when she saw me, I couldn’t help but think so.

§§◇◆◇◆§§

The last class of the morning was physical education. Thanks to the teacher ending it early, there was plenty of time to eat in the cafeteria and still enjoy the rest of the lunch break.

I saw Takane-san in the cafeteria, but she was chatting with a group of girls. Oshima thankfully blocked Takane’s attempts to mess with me, saving me from any trouble.

“Chida, you wanted to talk with Takane-san too, right? You seemed concerned about something.”

“Eh, really?”

However, Takane seemed slightly regretful about something and mentioned it while we were on our way to the classroom.

Asatani-san and a few of her friends, along with some classmates, knew that Takane-san and I came to class together this morning. Of course, we slightly adjusted our timing when entering the classroom. Though I accepted Takane-san’s invitation, I couldn’t propose to maintain a proper distance in the hallway.

“Asatani-san is not only the glittery type but also the demure type like Takane-san, huh?”

Hearing this, Oshima laughed refreshingly. I almost told him not to talk about people as if they lack principle, but then I swallowed my words.

“If I become close friends with Takane-san, our school’s ‘unreachable flower’… after just making a new friend…”

I worried about a potential fallout with my new friend, but there was no such thing. Instead, he enthusiastically clapped me on the shoulder.

“What… It’s hard to walk like this.”

“I thought it might bring some luck. We have to at least talk to girls, right? What’s the point of coming to high school otherwise?”

“Isn’t it for studying? Ah, don’t look so scary.”

“You can naturally talk to girls. I was told my face looks scary… I’m the biggest introvert there is.”

“I get told quite harsh things by girls too, so don’t worry about it.”

“Even so, you were quite fast in today’s running. Being fast is a big plus with girls.”

“You’re the type who goes all out when it’s necessary, huh, Chida-kun. You’re calm even when called on in class.”

That’s because there’s someone I can’t afford to look bad in front of.

It’s impossible to stop being conscious of Asatani-san in just one day. I’m still curious about why she called me. If she doesn’t want to tell me, I can’t keep asking.

Thinking this way is clearly self-centered, and I feel disgusting for it.

Ever since yesterday’s seat change, I’ve found myself occasionally concerned about Takane-san, who sits diagonally in front of me. Today felt different from yesterday.

(Maybe it’s better to always be able to contact Takane-san after what happened yesterday. Then I can always go help… No, it’d be better if the tennis club left her alone this morning. But would she think I have an ulterior motive if I ask to exchange phone numbers?)

Takane-san might think poorly of me if she feels I have impure intentions.

──I don’t care what others say.

Takane-san said that without looking at me, facing forward the whole time.

At that moment, I forgot about how others saw me and just listened to her words.

──Chida-kun, you’re a wonderful person.

Her words saved me, and I thought it was angelic of her to even talk to someone like me──I definitely don’t want to betray her trust.

“……….Huh?”

“What… what’s wrong? Takatera.”

As we entered the classroom, Takatera suddenly made a strange noise. Oshima exclaimed “Oh!” and looked surprised──looking in the direction of my seat.

“Look, Kirichan, this is the one I took yesterday.”

“Ah, I’ll look. You’re not posting it on SNS?”

“No way, we just watch. If Kirichan was cut off in the shot, it might have gone viral. Just the presence seems to increase views.”

“Really? I think Yamaguchi’s videos are cute. I’d like to try it too.”

“Really? That’s so great! I’ll invite you again next time.”

I could only catch fragments of the conversation, but it seems Asatani-san’s group went out after club observations yesterday. At some point, Asatani-san did something separately.

Yamaguchi-san has bright hair. Whether she’s a high school debutant or not, she has a gal-like image. She wasn’t in the same middle school as Asatani-san or me, so she must have become friends with Asatani-san after starting high school. Maybe she always admired Asatani-san.

Being friendly with anyone, that was Asatani-san’s image in middle school. Even among notable girls, she stood out and was always the center of attention.

Being liked by many people means having that much charm. Even now, several boys in the class are looking for a chance to talk to Asatani-san.

“Well, it’s an honor to give up my seat to the school’s idol.”

“Not an idol, an actress. She sometimes appears on variety shows, so maybe a multi-talent?”

(Oh, oh……!)

Takatera and Oshima, whose seats are near the front of the classroom, walked off together.

That’s right──I kept my distance from Asatani-san’s group, but still watched from afar because she was sitting in my seat. Takatera’s strange noise when entering the classroom was probably due to Asatani-san sitting in my seat.

Asatani-san was sitting next to Watanabe-san, talking with three other girls──one of them being Asatani-san. Sitting in my seat to talk to Watanabe-san wasn’t strange, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit frustrated. Maybe I’m just a coward.

“So, what are you going to do about the club?”

“Kirichan was enthusiastically invited to the drama club, but you’re still undecided, right? Too busy?”

“I’m interested, but for now, I think I’ll stick with the light music club.”

“Kirichan plays the guitar at home, right? Weren’t your singing videos getting a crazy number of views?”

“Asatani-san is really good. It’s a waste to just post on Instagram stories, you should definitely make a major debut.”

“Ahaha… Nabe Yuka is the second person who complimented my singing face-to-face.”

“Eh, I’m really curious about the first person now.”

Nabe Yuka must be Watanabe-san──her first name is probably Yukari or Yuri. If Asatani-san’s Instagram is under the name Kiriyanoa, then she supports Asatani-san’s career as an entertainer.

“Ah, shoot… I have to prepare for the fifth period’s Communication English presentation. Kirichan…”

“Hmm? It’s not much use asking me. Are you good at English, Inagawa-san?”

“I’m not confident either. I was thinking of just observing until I get used to it.”

There’s a speech presentation in the Communication English class, and Yamaguchi-san, who was previously chosen, seems a bit unsure.

While it’s inevitable to take some time getting used to classes, I hoped my presentation would go well. Even if it didn’t, since it’s my first one, I hoped the teacher would be understanding.

However, Asatani Kiri suddenly seemed to realize something and turned around.

Our eyes met. I remembered how her eyes looked this morning, but now, Asatani Kiri’s expression was vivid and her smile was bright, almost like a different person.

Asatani Kiri had said she might rely on me for study matters. Perhaps she noticed me and was about to speak – that thought crossed my mind.

“Right, why not ask Takane Nozomi for help?”

When Yamaguchi mentioned that name, Asatani Kiri looked at me again as if nothing had happened and turned back to face the front.

“That might be a good idea. Takane Nozomi is the top student in our year, after all.”

Asatani Kiri’s voice sounded as usual.

There was no reason for it to change. She had seen me with Takane Nozomi this morning, but I doubted she minded.

Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder.

How did Asatani Kiri feel seeing me getting along with another girl the day after being rejected?

“Don’t worry about it. It was just a small errand. Nagi was busy, right?”

From that message, Asatani Kiri seemed as usual.

It shouldn’t matter to a “friend” if they saw them walking with another girl. At least, the Asatani Kiri I knew was that kind of person.

(What do I know, anyway? Isn’t it because I don’t know anything that things turned out this way?)

Even now, I’m just waiting, sitting in my seat, being considerate until she decides to leave.

I can’t even talk to her in front of everyone.

The relationship between me and Asatani Kiri was more distant than friends. I even think it got closer after she said we were just friends.

That’s nothing but self-deprecation. It’s better to pretend to remember something and step out than to make them uncomfortable by standing here.

But as I was about to turn around, a tall female student entered the classroom – Takane Nozomi passed by me and approached Asatani Kiri’s group.

“Ah, Takane Nozomi. Sorry to bother you, but are you prepared for the next Comm English session?”

It was Asatani Kiri who spoke. She looked up to face Takane Nozomi, who was standing.

“I don’t have a presentation… but I’ve done the prep. Would you like to see my notes?”

“Ah… I, I…”

Yamaguchi seemed reluctant to accept the notes from someone she had been talking about.

“I’d like to sit down, so could you please look at the notes at your own desk?”

“Uh, sure… Sorry, Takane Nozomi. Thank you.”

Yamaguchi and another girl, Inagawa, took Takane Nozomi’s notes and returned to their seats.

Then Takane Nozomi turned to go back to her seat, but glanced at Asatani Kiri again.

“Hey, Takane Nozomi, what kind of drinks do you like?”

Asatani Kiri asked an unexpected question. Even as a casual conversation, it seemed abrupt.

“If I had to say, I think I like tea.”

“Ahaha… You’re serious even about preferences, aren’t you, Takane Nozomi?”

Listening to their conversation, classmates interpreted that the two beautiful girls were making plans to go for tea.

I wanted to join that interpretation, but from where I stood, I couldn’t think that way.

“What kind of drinks do you like, Asatani Kiri?”

Asatani Kiri mentioned on social media that she drinks water before bed. It’s one of those methods commonly practiced by models and actresses to stay in shape.

She doesn’t regularly drink juices, teas, or other beverages.

She shouldn’t, but…

“I quite like coffee, I guess.”

Asatani Kiri had said she rarely drinks coffee as it keeps her awake.

So she likes it but avoids it because it affects her sleep. Was there some intention behind suddenly bringing up the topic of drinks?

I couldn’t just stand there eavesdropping. But before I could leave, Asatani Kiri stood up from her seat.

“Thanks for lending the notebook to Sayu. Takane Nozomi, let’s go through the physical test together tomorrow. I want to talk more.”

“Understood. I look forward to it tomorrow.”

After responding happily to Takane Nozomi, Asatani Kiri returned to her seat at the front near the corridor. So, she didn’t need to come near where I was in the back.

But she did, coming up to me, then said,

“Sorry for taking your seat for so long.”

“I… no, not at all…”

I couldn’t calmly say something like, “don’t worry about it.” Why do I regress instead of growing in front of Asatani Kiri?

Oblivious to my turmoil, Asatani Kiri whispered in a small voice as we passed each other,

“Your chair is really comfortable, Nagi.”

I tried not to think about it, but now I couldn’t help it.

“Hey, didn’t Asatani Kiri just call Chida something else?”

“Maybe it’s a nickname, they were in the same middle school…”

Hearing those voices, I realized it was bad to be called by a nickname in front of everyone – Asatani Kiri always used to call me “Chida-kun” in public.

Takane Nozomi was looking at me – her gaze wasn’t cold, but it made me uncomfortable.

After she sat down, I went to my desk. As I casually reached into my desk, I found a folded paper.

“Did you like the new seat? If Watanabe has trouble seeing the blackboard, please help her. She’s a shy girl, so she might hesitate.”

It was a note, not a message on social media – maybe this was the reason for the phone call.

The petite Watanabe seemed to have trouble seeing the board from her seat in front. She looked like she wanted to talk to Takane Nozomi, probably for that reason.

Both Takane Nozomi and I realized we had looked at each other at the same time.

Before I could speak, Takane Nozomi looked away, and the pre-class bell rang, missing the chance to talk.

I couldn’t speak to Takane Nozomi during the next break, either, hoping to catch her after school.

Sitting so close, yet wishing I could contact her on my phone – I felt guilty looking at Takane Nozomi’s back, every passing minute feeling slow and frustrating.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

When we changed seats, I ended up in the same group as Takane Nozomi.

After school, I was assigned to clean the library as part of my cleaning duties. It’s a big place, so one group from each grade cleans a different area. We were assigned the area with literary books.

Since the Reading Club also uses this area, I thought it might be nice to join them, continuing from middle school. Although I was scouted by a sports club, I hesitated to dive into a new sport in high school, especially since there seemed to be few prospective members.

Above all, I have a routine of going to the gym after school, which serves as a substitute for joining a sports club. If I stop going, my sister Nagi would be sulky, so I need to show my face there at least twice a week.

“It doesn’t look too dirty; maybe we should wrap up soon?”

“Let’s clean a bit more and then head home. You should do the same, Chida.”

“I have some things to do in the library, so I’ll keep cleaning till it’s time.”

“Alright, good luck with that.”

The other boys in my group seemed more interested in their club activities. After cleaning for a while, they said a word to the other girls and left.

Like I did when I was in the Reading Club, I neatly arranged the books and carefully wiped the dust from the shelves. Then, I picked up a book from the shelf.

“Chida, do you like mystery novels?”

“Ah… Takane Nozomi…”

I was startled by her sudden voice. There was Watanabe and another girl in our group, but it seemed Takane Nozomi had split off from them.

The book I held was “The Study in Scarlet,” a part of the Sherlock Holmes series.

“I was just checking what books they have. Thought about borrowing it later.”

“I see. I’ve read most of the books in this section.”

Takane Nozomi pointed to the section with Agatha Christie’s works. I had read some of them too, as they were in my middle school library.

“Well, I usually read manga. I got interested in these kinds of books because they were featured in a manga.”

“I don’t read manga, so I’d like to try it sometime.”

I’ve met people who, due to their family rules, don’t read manga or watch TV.

Takane Nozomi’s demeanor, behavior, and way of speaking made me guess she came from a strict household. Her saying she’s never read manga sounded believable.

“I sometimes get curious about the original manga after watching dramas based on them.”

“Yeah, my sister does that too. She buys manga for the same reason.”

“Is your sister close in age to you?”

“She’s two years older and goes to a different high school. She uses the same station as Takane Nozomi, so you might run into her.”

“Would I be able to recognize her as Chida’s sister?”

“I wonder. People often say we don’t look alike.”

My sister and I overlapped for a year in middle school. She’s exceptionally attractive, and friendly too. There were times when people suddenly asked me to introduce them to my sister. Strangely enough, despite her popularity, she’s never had a boyfriend.

She likes to take me out on her rare days off, so maybe she’s not interested in boyfriends yet – but at her age, that’s unlikely. We maintain a certain decorum in our family, so it’s a topic we rarely touch.

“Uh, um…”

“Ah, sorry. I have a bad habit of getting lost in thought while talking.”

“No, it’s fine…”

Takane Nozomi seemed like she wanted to say something. She timidly looked at me, touching her hair that fell over her shoulder – a gesture that was earnest or endearing.

Looking at her now, I realized the slight change in her atmosphere from yesterday wasn’t my imagination.

“Takane Nozomi, do you feel a bit different today?”

“Ah… no…”

Takane Nozomi jerked in surprise, then let go of her hair. Indeed, her hair styling was different from yesterday.

“After what happened yesterday, I wonder if it’s not good for me to be concerned about such things.”

“Ah…”

The forceful recruitment by the tennis club. Part of the reason was probably Takane Nozomi’s standout looks.

“It’s not bad… I mean, it’s good. Did you change your hairstyle a bit, make it fluffier?”

“Yes.”

Takane Nozomi replied briefly. My lack of fashion knowledge made it hard to express myself accurately, which was frustrating.

However, she didn’t seem upset, and after looking around, she asked,

“When did you notice?”

“That, well…”

Since this morning. But saying that might sound like I was targeting her.

Noticing changes in a girl’s appearance is important for making a good impression. It’s nice to be noticed, but often, one can’t express it – like me, right now.

“If it wasn’t just now…”

“Ah, actually, I noticed it this morning. But I thought you’d be surprised if I suddenly mentioned it.”

“Surprised? Why?”

Before I knew it, she had me on the defensive. I was the one who made it this way, but I felt cornered.

Takane Nozomi softened her intense gaze and spoke in a gentle, almost admonishing tone,

“I wouldn’t be surprised. Well, a little, but… I’m more pleased that you noticed.”

Takane Nozomi smiled – a bashful expression that brought a sense of comfort to my heart.

I managed to convey my thoughts. If she knew I was worried about being dismissed as “creepy,” she’d probably give me a troubled look.

It’s only been two days since we started talking. She spoke to me this morning, and even now, she initiated the conversation.

As long as we’re in the same group, we’ll have more chances to interact. But if one of us didn’t want to, these moments of conversation wouldn’t exist.

“I don’t know what to say… Thank you, Takane Nozomi.”

“No, it’s… right now, it’s my turn to say thank you. Even considering what happened yesterday…”

“About that… I received a canned coffee from you yesterday, and it’s not like I’m thinking about debts or anything… I just don’t want you to worry too much about it.”

“…That is…”

There was something I had wanted to tell Takane-san.

If not now, then when? If I miss this moment, I might not get another chance to talk to her like this again.

“Things like what happened yesterday should ideally not occur, but Takane-san is popular, so… if you ever find yourself in trouble, please… don’t hesitate to rely on me…”

I want to be there for her, yet I find myself unable to express it in words.

I can’t make excuses about being unaccustomed anymore. It’s rude to keep feeling nervous when she’s the one reaching out to me.

However, ever since I mentioned her hair, I haven’t been able to look directly at Takane-san.

I can sense her embarrassment. Yet, she still tries to listen to what I have to say.

“…I thought it would be wrong to rely on Chida-kun.”

It seems Takane-san also had reservations about relying on others.

However, she shouldn’t hesitate at all when she feels compelled, especially not when she’s being forced into something she doesn’t want.

Before I could say that, Takane-san, with determination, placed her hand on her chest and continued speaking.

“But… this morning, when we went to the classroom together, I realized something. Being with Chida-kun makes me feel very safe.”

“…Even though I was so nervous I could hardly pay attention to you, Takane-san?”

Takane-san chuckled softly and then nodded.

Her smile, usually so calm and composed, had an irresistibly captivating charm.

“I also have to muster my courage to look at Chida-kun. But, I just can’t help wanting to make sure you’re there…”

I remember the shy smile she had when she turned around in the classroom that morning.

I was right to think she was happy about our seats being close.

“Just now, at the end of lunch break… not only then, but also between fifth and sixth periods, I wanted to discuss something with Takane-san.”

“Something you wanted to discuss…?”

Concern about the view of the blackboard from Watanabe-san’s seat—Asatani-san was also worried about that.

But saying that out loud would be like admitting I’m still just as concerned about Asatani-san’s mood as I always have been.

And if I bring it up now, and Watanabe-san and Takane-san end up switching seats because of it, it would be like saying I want Takane-san to sit next to me.

As I hesitated, thinking all this, Takane-san, who had seemed tense, let out a small sigh and relaxed her shoulders. In the waning afternoon sunlight streaming into the library, her cheeks appeared to be faintly blushed.

“Actually, I’ve been wanting to discuss something as well. About my seat…”

Just as Takane-san started to speak, a girl unmistakably appeared at the end of the aisle between the bookshelves.

With her light side tail sliding over her shoulder, she turned to us and covered her mouth with her hand as she laughed.

It was as if she was saying, “I found you.”

Why was she here when she wasn’t assigned to cleaning duty? If she came here, did it mean she was looking for us? Such thoughts raced through my mind.

“The cleaning’s done, right? Good work, Nagi-kun. You too, Takane-san.”

“Thank you. Do you need something in the library, Asatani-san?”

“Yeah, I came to talk to Watanabe-san, but I guess I missed her.”

If Watanabe-san wanted to talk about seats with Takane-san, she could have done it while in the library. That she didn’t suggest she’s not too keen on switching seats, or maybe it wasn’t urgent for today. In any case, it didn’t seem like there was any deep reason for her leaving early.

But that’s only if Asatani-san hadn’t come here.

If Asatani-san came here thinking Watanabe-san would be here, I could tell her to wait on SNS.

Yet she chose not to do that, implying she thought Takane-san and I would be here. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but since lunch, I’ve been tossed around by Asatani-san’s words and actions.

“Ah, later I’ll message Watanabe-san, so it’s fine. So, Nagi-kun, are you free after this?”

“Uh… no, I…”

I’m struggling to keep up with the sudden turn in the conversation. If she wants to talk to Watanabe-san, she could just go after her now, but I can’t even get a word in.

“If you’re not busy, how about we grab some tea? I’ve been meaning to thank you for always helping me out.”

All I have are questions. Why does she keep calling me “Nagi-kun” in front of Takane-san? Why does she phrase it like there’s a hidden meaning in “always helping me out”?

I feel a lingering attachment to Asatani-san.

Even though we’re just friends, being seen outside school with Asatani-san after hours would surely start rumors.

She knows this, yet she doesn’t seem to care, acting nonchalantly.

And above all, even with Takane-san right there, Asatani-san doesn’t hesitate to invite me out.

“Do you mean you’re thanking Chida-kun for teaching you in class?”

“That’s part of it, but there’s more. Nagi-kun and I have been in the same school since the second year of middle school.”

“Ah, Asatani-san. Back in the second year, we hardly…”

“We didn’t talk much, did we? But I knew about you, Nagi-kun.”

Back in the second year of middle school, I had only a few interactions with Asatani-san.

I thought those were insignificant moments that only I remembered. Now, to be told she remembers them too, I can’t grasp her thoughts.

“Ah, that’s right. How about you come along, Takane-san? You two seem to have gotten close recently. You were walking together this morning, right?”

If I want to avoid misunderstandings about Takane-san, we both should just laugh it off and say it’s nothing special, just normal.

But she said she doesn’t care what others think.

──So.

Asking Asatani-san that question was probably something Takane-san had already resolved to do.

“Asatani-san, what is your relationship with Chida-kun?”

Her voice was restrained, quiet, yet in Takane Nozomi’s eyes, I could sense an unwavering plea for honesty.

Asatani Kiri, undeterred by this, responded with equal composure.

“So, I’m essentially Nagi-kun’s ex-girlfriend… that’s correct, isn’t it?”

The question was directed at me.

Takane Nozomi looked at me. Whether she had felt this from before or just realized it now, her expression gave nothing away.

Asatani Kiri was smiling, as if to say, ‘It’s the truth, so it’s okay to say it, right?’

Remaining silent would be taken as an affirmation. I wondered how Takane Nozomi would interpret my silence about my past with Asatani Kiri.

What would she think of Asatani Kiri inviting me, her “ex-boyfriend”? Would she see it as something normal, or would she be baffled by our seemingly half-hearted relationship—or perhaps neither?

“Then… if that’s the case…”

Takane Nozomi started to speak. Asatani Kiri listened, still smiling.

“It means Chida-kun is currently single, correct?”

After addressing Asatani Kiri, Takane Nozomi turned to look at me.

It was as if she wanted me to answer in front of Asatani Kiri, waiting for my response.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

In my second year of middle school, Asatani Kiri transferred to the class next to mine.

Previously living in Kanagawa, she moved due to her parents’ work. The rumors about her arrival reached even to the neighboring classes, making Asatani Kiri an immediate center of attention.

Just introducing herself brought cheers in the classroom. Students from not just other classes but also different grades flocked just to catch a glimpse of her. She was that extraordinary, almost like a character out of fiction, with her striking appearance.

Many clubs vied for her attention, but Asatani Kiri joined the Astronomy Club. I later learned she chose it because it had the least demanding schedule, as she was already involved in a theater company.

I, too, had commitments outside school activities and thus chose the Reading Club, which met only once a week.

The Astronomy Club used the auxiliary library room, and the Reading Club the main library, leading the club presidents of our senior year to become friends and initiate interactions between the two clubs.

Most members of both clubs were girls, so while Asatani Kiri did interact with the girls from the Reading Club, we never really spoke to each other.

──My first conversation with her happened during a meteor shower observation event suggested by the Astronomy Club.

I was roped in as a helper, carrying the telescope to the observation site on a hill at the behest of the Astronomy Club president.

Although I could manage alone, one of the Astronomy Club members offered to help, saying the equipment looked heavy. It was Asatani Kiri. Dressed in her uniform, as the school was the meeting point, she quietly complained about the other members, who had come in casual clothes.

Her interest in me began because, like her, I had shown up in uniform.

“Everyone else thought to wear casual clothes, but I didn’t know. Being often absent from the club, I wish they would’ve told me,” she said, as if we had been friends for a long time.

Her hair, then only long enough to reach her shoulders, was tied into short pigtails. I still vividly remember her appearance.

“But it’s reassuring to see someone else thought the same. You’re… Manda-kun, right?”

“No, it’s Chida… Nagito,” I corrected her.

“Nagito-kun, huh? That’s an unusual name. Do you know mine?”

I did know her name, from friends and school rumors. Knowing the name of the famous Asatani Kiri wasn’t surprising.

“Uh… you’re Asatani-san, right?”

“Right, that’s me. Am I kind of famous then?”

Her reaction was genuine, not seeking anything. She seemed unaware of how quickly she had become the talk of the school upon transferring.

Finding love letters in her shoe locker or being approached by boys on her way to and from school wasn’t uncommon for her. But that only started happening after summer vacation; until then, she was admired yet also seen as an unapproachable beauty.

I knew Asatani Kiri was a cheerful person, but I hadn’t realized she was so approachable and friendly, which left me a bit bewildered.

“Ah, but I might actually become famous someday.”

“Really…?”

“Just kidding, not really there yet. Sorry, forget what I said.”

She had been attending a theater training school since elementary and was occasionally scouted on the streets, already possessing a special aura.

Unaware of this, I adjusted the bag carrying the telescope on my shoulder and said as we climbed the stairs to the hill, “Well, if it’s Asatani-san, it seems quite possible…”

“Really? Do you really think so? I mean, I’m just normal in our conversation, right?”

Asatani Kiri has always considered herself ordinary, a trait that hasn’t changed.

Her talent blossomed through her efforts. Her popularity on a national scale in middle school wasn’t just due to her looks but also her remarkable acting skills.

But back then, success was probably still a dream for her. She aspired to be famous, to be recognized by many, and she worked hard towards that goal without revealing her efforts to those around her.

“Hey, what made you think I could become famous?”

“Well, that’s…”

I couldn’t very well say it was because she was incredibly cute. A typical shy second-year middle schooler, I hadn’t changed much even now.

“Anything you thought is fine, just say it. Don’t worry, I won’t get mad. Come on, tell me.”

“Um…”

If only I had been able to say something at that moment.

──Then I probably wouldn’t have seen the expression she showed next.

“I’ve been talking too much, haven’t I? Sorry for being annoying.”

“No, not at all. I’ve felt a bit out of place in the club too, so I was glad you talked to me…”

“Really? But our club president was happy that you helped with the equipment. Everyone says it’s good to have boys around.”

I thought as much, but it was nice to hear it from her.

Asatani Kiri, who told me this without any pretense, seemed a bit different to me at that moment.

“Right, I was supposed to help you. As fellow uniform-wearers, let’s do our best.”

“I can manage alone, but…”

“Don’t say that when we’re supposed to work together! It’s like cutting a wedding cake, isn’t it?”

She had just been down about talking too much, but now she was back to her lively self.

Her joke made me realize, even though it was our first conversation, she could say quite bold things.

“I’ll tell everyone later, ‘We carried it together!’ Then you might blend in more with the club.”

In the end, Asatani Kiri truly carried out her declaration, and it was fairly well-received by everyone in the club.

We couldn’t stay until the peak time when the meteor shower was supposed to be most visible, but we managed to catch a glimpse of it. I still have the video of that moment.

Had there been no interaction between the Reading Club and the Astronomy Club, I would have never crossed paths with Asatani Kiri.

It was only once every few weeks. With such rare opportunities, I found myself drawn to her just by exchanging a few words.

──But, I realized that it was only me who thought this way.

My feelings for her gradually intensified, and I feared ending our middle school days without saying anything on graduation day.

In the library, which had served as a makeshift clubroom for the Reading Club, I met Asatani Kiri unexpectedly ── assuming it was fate that she was there, supposedly on her way to a graduation party with her friends.

Until the moment I confessed, I only fantasized about the joy of attending the same high school as boyfriend and girlfriend.

If she had accepted me, even if we were in different classes and spoke less, I would still hold the title of “boyfriend.”

It was all self-centered thinking.

I didn’t want to see her walking alongside someone else someday. Driven by that possessive desire, I hastily wanted to be ahead of anyone else she might meet in the future.

“I… I like you, Asatani-san.”

In the library, during a casual conversation that was nearly over, I blurted it out unexpectedly.

Asatani Kiri was surprised. Not blankly staring, nor showing a face questioning why I would suddenly say such a thing.

She smiled as usual. Unaware that it was a smile meant for a “friend,” I was simply dazzled by it.

“I knew it.”

That was her response.

She never said she liked me back or wanted to go out with me.

She had just been aware of my feelings for a while, acknowledged them, and nodded.

“We’ll be in the same high school too. I’m looking forward to it.”

After saying that and exchanging SNS contacts, Asatani Kiri left the library, seemingly embarrassed.

I let out a silent scream of joy, alone.

I wondered if I deserved such happiness. It felt like I could die the next day and it wouldn’t be strange.

There’s no such thing as pointless feelings. Love is supposed to be rewarded.

But all those thoughts, everything.

Looking back now, being separated from Asatani Kiri as if nothing happened ──.

◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

Takane Nozomi was asking if I was single now.

I couldn’t look at Asatani Kiri again. Because I couldn’t take my eyes off Takane Nozomi.

During our short time as a couple, I was only able to express a fraction of what I thought to Asatani Kiri.

Even when we broke up, I tried to conclude it all by myself.

I didn’t want to feel more miserable by knowing the reason.

I refused to face the fact that my love for her had lost its meaning.

It was time to put an end to it.

Even if it meant admitting how unqualified I was as a boyfriend, no matter how uncool it was.

“I’m single now. I confessed to Asatani-san, and she initially said okay, but… I got carried away by myself.”

I hadn’t been forgotten. It was hard to keep my voice from shaking.

“Asatani-san couldn’t see me as a boyfriend… I guess it’s weird to have a boyfriend who always speaks formally, right?”

I wanted to turn it into a joke, hoping for a laugh.

But neither of us laughed. Takane Nozomi wasn’t looking at me with pity, she was listening, looking into my eyes.

“It’s okay to be friends, but not as a boyfriend… So, it’s like we’re back to how we were in middle school. So, it’s kind of like a net zero, I guess.”

“To pretend as if our past relationship never existed.

To forget that we were ever in love and reset everything to zero.

For Asatani-san, and for Takane-san who came asking, to keep it from becoming too burdensome.

‘…Is that the reason why you two broke up?’ Takane-san looked at Asatani-san.

Asatani-san, without changing her expression, simply faced Takane-san.

‘If that were the case, what would you think, Takane-san?’

‘…I…’

Takane-san couldn’t immediately answer. Asatani-san, seeing her like this, smiled and walked towards me.

‘I know Nagi-kun better than Takane-san, and I think we get along well. You wouldn’t come to dislike me enough to not want to see me just because we broke up, right?’

‘…I don’t think that at all.’

‘Ah, you’re hesitating a bit. You’re thinking, ‘this guy…’, aren’t you?’

If there were no feelings of guilt towards me, she wouldn’t think that way.

We tried to return to being ‘just friends’ as naturally as possible. How I felt about her.

At least, I didn’t hate her. Not even angry.

‘There’s no such thing. I really don’t think that.’

‘…I see. You’re really kind, Nagi-kun, as always.’

Asatani-san said with a smile. Then she came closer to me than Takane-san, as if to define the distance of ‘just friends.’

‘Then, it’s okay if I borrow Nagi-kun from now on?’

Takane-san and I were still not even friends.

In the same class, we had only just started talking yesterday. That was the extent of our relationship with her, nothing more.

So I couldn’t go with her.

Asatani-san and I weren’t in a relationship where we would go somewhere together after school.

‘Asatani-san, I…’

‘—No.’

Takane-san interrupted my words.

Asatani-san had been questioning Takane-san. It wasn’t wrong for her to answer.

But her response was something neither I nor Asatani-san could have imagined.

Takane-san took a deep breath.

(What…!)

And then—she took my hand. And said to Asatani-san.

‘Asatani-san, you’re Chida-kun’s ‘ex-girlfriend,’ right?’

‘…Yeah. And?’

Asatani-san smiled as usual. But there was a slight discomfort in her brief reply.

It sounded almost impatient.

Takane-san looked at me. I looked back at her, my hand still in hers.

For a moment, she seemed to hesitate.

Then, the grip on my hand grew stronger.

She said something I never would have imagined.

‘From now on, I’ll be dating Chida-kun, so I’m the ‘current girlfriend.”

The noise of the sports clubs outside the window. The sound of the chime telling the time seemed far away now.

‘……….’

Asatani-san looked away from Takane-san. Her lips seemed to move, but what she said was unclear.

She moved to the side to make way. Takane-san looked at me—tentatively, as if afraid.

Just like when she followed behind me, clutching the hem of my shirt, calling herself ‘current girlfriend’ must have required courage—but probably, she was really anxious.

I wanted to alleviate that anxiety, even a little.

‘Let’s go, Takane-san. Asatani-san, see you later.’

‘…Chida-kun…’

I left the library with Takane-san.

As we passed each other, Asatani-san was indeed smiling—without saying anything, she waved her hand slightly.”

📢 Maybe you see "V2" or "V3" and so on in the NOVEL TITLE, it means what VOLUMES the NOVEL is.
It Seems That Takane, the Current Girlfriend, Definitely Doesn’t Want to Lose to the Ex-girlfriend

It Seems That Takane, the Current Girlfriend, Definitely Doesn’t Want to Lose to the Ex-girlfriend

Takane no Hana no Imakano wa, Zettai Motokano ni Maketakunai you desu / 高嶺の花の今カノは、絶対元カノに負けたくないようです
Score 7.8
Status: Ongoing Type: Author: , Artist: Released: 2020 Native Language: Japanese
As he graduated from junior high, Nagito Senda began dating Kiri Asatani, but he got dumped when they started high school. While recovering from his broken heart, he saw Nozomi Takane, a girl in his class, being harassed by a pushy club recruiter, and decided to help her. The two quickly grew closer as they sit together in class and go to and from school together. One day, as the two were cleaning the library, Kiri comes up to Nozomi and asks, “Can I borrow Nagi-kun?” When Nozomi asked Kiri about her relationship with Nagito… “I was Nagi-kun’s ex-girlfriend” “Well from now on I’ll be his new girlfriend.” Now that both girls have declared themselves, what will be his real intention? Sparks will fly in the game between the ex-girlfriend and the current girlfriend.

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