When Sakuta returned home from work, he found a message waiting on the answering machine.
“I wonder who it is,” he muttered to himself, assuming it was their father as he pushed the button to play the message.
“It’s Sakurajima Mai. I just left Kagoshima and thought I would tell you.”
It was someone completely unexpected. Mai’s abnormally formal tone was a particularly fresh experience for him.
He played it again.
“It’s Sakurajima Mai. I just left Kagoshima and thought I would tell you,” Mai’s voice resounded from the answering machine.
“Three times’d be a bit much, I guess,” he realised, stopping himself from playing it a third time. Instead, he lifted the handset and dialled Mai’s mobile number from memory. After three rings, the call connected.
“Who might this be?”
“I know. I’ve saved your home number. I was just about to take a bath though.”
Her voice was somewhat tired as she just spoke what she wanted over him. It was like she was trying to tell him not to call with that kind of timing. A maiden’s heart is a complex thing.
“So you’re naked?”
“If I was, I wouldn’t have answered.”
“It’d be perverted, talking to a boy while I was naked.”
Sakuta agreed now that she mentioned it, he didn’t want her to become promiscuous like that.
“So, what’d you want?”
Her short sentence seemed to bid him hurry up so she could bathe.
“Welcome back, Mai-san.”
He heard a slightly confused breath from the other end of the phone.
“Was that it?”
“I wanted to hear something else though,” Sakuta said.
“I’m not going to go ‘I’m home’ for you.” Apparently, saying it like that didn’t count. It did to Sakuta, but not to Mai it seemed. As he considered that, Mai finished with “See you.” And then just hung up.
Calling back would just end up with her not answering, so Sakuta obediently returned the handset to the stand. He’d been able to find out that she’d arrived home safely, so it had already fulfilled his goal.
The next day was Monday, and they started the week with July the seventh, Tanabata. The day itself dawned without a cloud in the sky.
Sakuta switched the TV on as he ate his breakfast.
“With things as they are, Orihime and Hikoboshi should be able to meet safely this Tanabata,” said the man on screen cleverly, with the usual breakfast TV presenter tone.
Following on from that, the weather report itself had the forecaster telling the viewers that temperatures were already over thirty degrees across the county with a smile on her face. Just hearing it sapped Sakuta’s motivation.
He’d have skipped school if he could, but he had a reason he had to go in. And on top of that, the end of term exams began today.
Awaiting Sakuta once he had resisted the heat and made it to school were maths and English exams. He filled in all the answers in the maths exam, but couldn’t follow the listening in English at all. He decided to himself that he’d find a job he wouldn’t need English in for his career. Maybe becoming Santa Claus wouldn’t be possible.
The short path to the station was crowded with Minegahara High School students. It was actually more crowded than usual due to the exams meaning there were no students staying for club activities.
Soon after he left through the gates, Sakuta saw a familiar figure. It was Tomoe, her rucksack with the straps lengthened so the main bag hid her backside.
Her gaze was downcast and she seemed somewhat uncomfortable as she walked with her shoulders hunched over. Her usual companions of Rena, Hinako, and Aya were walking and laughing about ten metres ahead.
Her behaviour didn’t make it look like she’d just been slightly late and was going to catch up with them, the trio seemed to be pretending not to notice her even while knowing she was there, keeping a purposeful distance from her.
Immediately, Yuuma’s warnings from Friday came to mind.
After telling Sakuta that there were rumours going around, Yuuma had said:
“People are saying she’s easy, a slut, and that you’re going at it like rabbits.”
The small platform at Shichirigahama Station was filled with Minegahara students.
Tomoe was standing apologetically at the end of the Fujisawa-bound side. The students around her kept their distance, seeming to create an invisible wall between them. Despite being in the same actual atmosphere, a separate atmosphere seemed to envelop her.
Sakuta entered the covered area and moved next to Tomoe, ignoring the gazes of the other students before lightly poking her in the head.
“Don’t look so gloomy.”
“Senpai…” she said, looking up at him, before growing too conscious of everyone’s looks around them and looking right back down again.
Sakuta joining her meant the people gazing did so more openly. That’s not to say they were outright staring, they were mostly just sneaking glances to try and judge whether the rumours were true. There were those smiling scornfully at them, some amusing themselves with the rumours, and others just looking down on them.
This was already an everyday occurrence for Sakuta, so he didn’t think much of it, but Tomoe seemed to be trying to curl herself up next to him and hide.
Looking down at her face, he could see she wanted to be anywhere but there, making him understand she wanted to run away to a painful degree. Her uneasy eyes seemed like they might burst into tears at any moment.
This was the sort of thing Tomoe dealt the worst with, it was so she didn’t end up in this kind of situation that she frantically read the atmosphere of any group she was in. She had even gone as far as to pretend to date to avoid those embarrassing gazes.
As if to land the final blow, mocking laughter came from behind.
With anger burning within the core of his body, Sakuta turned around to see a group of three third-years. The chains jangled from their waist, with Maesawa-senpai standing in the middle.
He met Sakuta’s eyes and put a forced smile on his face.
“First-years sure are energetic recently,” he said to the two of them, making sure the other students around could hear, their sight fixed provocatively on Sakuta.
It was a pretty lazy way of picking a fight, but that actually amused Sakuta more, so he let out a snort. After all, it was polite to return what was given to you.
“Huh?” Maesawa-senpai’s expression suddenly grew serious and he took a step, then a second towards Sakuta, looming over him, “Did you just laugh at me?”
“I’m still laughing at you, problem?”
“You pissing around!?” He roared, grabbing Sakuta by his lapels.
“I’m just making fun of you.”
Someone further in on the platform snorted.
In the next moment, a strong punch landed on Sakuta’s face with a thump, and Sakuta staggered back two or three steps.
He heard a scream, probably Tomoe’s. Sakuta’s vision went white, and his left cheek was numb, then after several seconds began to pulse with a sharp pain. The attack was stronger than Sakuta had been expecting, being from someone about five centimetres taller than him with a toned body from basketball.
You could hear a pin drop on the crowded platform.
Maesawa-senpai was drawing back for another hit.
“Senpai!” Shouted Tomoe, interposing herself between the two.
“Idiot!” Yelled Sakuta, grabbing her rucksack and pulling her back, switching positions with her.
Maesawa-senpai seemed to be surprised at her action, because his fist was still raised, but not moving. The spectators just kept on watching.
At first, Sakuta had just meant to grin and bear it, but the pain from his cheek wasn’t abating, and he let himself drop into his anger.
“Senpai…” Tomoe said worriedly, tugging on his sleeve. Looking back at her tearful face put paid to any chance of Sakuta just letting it happen.
Sakuta took a big step forward, raising his fist.
Maesawa-senpai immediately lifted both of his arms into a block, leaving his legs completely open, so Sakuta drove his foot into his defenceless shin.
“Argh!” Came his yell, mixed with pain and surprise as he crouched down to hold on to his leg, “Dude, that’s dirty!”
He glared hatefully.
“Right back at you!”
This time, Sakuta kicked at his face this time, using the sole of his foot in two stomp kicks.
Maesawa-senpai couldn’t even break his fall and fell back onto the ground. As he glared at Sakuta, his face went red with shame, anger, and humiliation.
No one said a word, they just seemed to be in shock at the situation, and not sure how to react. They all seemed to be waiting for Sakuta to speak.
He didn’t want to play into the expectation, but Sakuta said what he thought Maesawa-senpai would least want to hear.
Some of the onlookers started stirring, letting out stifled laughs.
“Who is!? Who!?” He yelled. Apparently, his mind wasn’t working right from his anger, so even when Sakuta waited, no more words were forthcoming, and Maesawa-senpai’s mouth just flapped like a goldfish’s.
Instead, his two companions approached him. Sakuta ignored that and spoke to the boy on the floor.
“You should wash your face.”
“I stepped in some dog crap yesterday.”
Maesawa-senpai hurriedly wiped at his face and sniffed his hand, inciting more laughter.
The other two who had been about to start fighting Sakuta stopped and backed away, the crap barrier impregnable.
Looking around, he could see students fiddling with their phones, tweeting and posting about what had just happened, and sending messages to their friends who weren’t here.
Rena was looking at him in mute amazement, Hinako was shifting nervously next to her, and Aya was trying to calm her down.
“D-don’t piss me about!” He yelled, finally standing up again.
“You’re the one pissing about. If you don’t want to be made a show of, don’t act like a moron. You’re way too lame.”
“Don’t piss me about!”
“You already said that.”
His speech centres seemed all messed up, as he couldn’t say anything else, just repeating ‘don’t piss me about’ like a broken record.
“Senpai, that’s enough,” said Tomoe, having grabbed the back of his uniform at some point. She had a troubled expression and seemed worried about Maesawa-senpai, who was now receiving the brunt of the others’ scorn. If she didn’t enjoy something, she wouldn’t want to subject other people to it either.
Even so, Sakuta didn’t retreat and continued speaking.
“No, let me say this,” he said before returning to glaring at Maesawa-senpai and practically spitting: “Going at it like rabbits? Don’t make me laugh, I’m a virgin.”
Once he was done, he took Tomoe’s hand and pulled her from the station, increasing his pace with each step away from the building, and before they realised, they were running.
It wasn’t because they thought that Maesawa-senpai would chase them, it was just because their emotions were running high, they couldn’t help but run themselves. Happiness rushed in on them, they didn’t know why they were happy, but their hearts leapt at the situation.
“Senpai, that was too much.”
“Do you think I care?”
“It was definitely too much,” Tomoe laughed as she ran.
The sound of the waves and wind calmed their racing hearts, clearing any dark patches that remained within them at the same time. Such was the strange power of the beach.
Sakuta and Tomoe had run from the station and were now walking to the west on Shichirigahama Beach, slowly getting closer to Enoshima where it floated on the waves.
“Are you coming in too?” Tomoe asked from where she had removed her shoes and socks and was playing in the water. Sakuta was about two metres from her, walking along the furthest part the waves reached.
“And who’d hold my shoes?” He asked in turn, having picked up hers from where she left them on the beach.
Even though it was a weekday, there was the odd person that had come to the beach. Families with small children, groups of university students, and adult couples were calling out in fun among the waves. It seemed like even the weather was blessing the first chance to use the beaches as bright laughter resounded around them.
“Senpai,” Tomoe began.
“I told you, I’m not going in.”
“That’s not what I wanted,” she said with a pout.
“What is it then?”
Sakuta didn’t answer.
“You made me really happy earlier,” she continued.
“You’re welcome,” Sakuta answer emotionlessly. His cheek still ached, and was still hot.
“I think I might get what you said before.”
“Something like even if the world was your enemy, just having one person need you was good.”
“Hey, don’t go for ‘like’, remember it properly.”
“It felt like I was really your girlfriend, like you treasured me.”
The wind and waves carried Tomoe’s happiness to him.
“I promised I’d do that for this term.”
Originally it was to be ‘more than her schoolmate, less than her boyfriend’, but he didn’t think there was a way he could seem like less now.
“A false lover would never normally go that far, they wouldn’t care that much.”
“I’m a perfectionist.”
“What, y’so st’gy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Y’don’ even know tha’?”
Tomoe looked at him, aghast.
“I’ll tell you,” this time, she looked proud, “it means boring.”
“I wasn’t playing the fool when I said I was a perfectionist,” Sakuta said as they continued walking, “Koga?”
“Thanks as well. If you hadn’t jumped in, I’d have just been pounded,” Maesawa-senpai was well-built, so another two or three hits would have meant he couldn’t counter-attack, “be careful though, you could have ended up pretty badly hurt.”
“I was just sort of frantic.”
“It’s ‘cause you’re a high-schooler of justice,” he said, remembering what happened when they first met, with her thinking he was a pervert and kicking him without a moment’s hesitation to save a little girl. He was in no doubt that that sense of justice was what defined her. When it came down to it, acting was more important than thinking, and she did so with a pure heart and desire to help. It wasn’t something anyone could do, people usually seized up when something happened. “Also, I’m sorry.”
“What for?” Asked Tomoe from his side, looking questioningly at him.
“I treated your friend’s crush awfully.”
“What do we dooo?” Asked Tomoe, stopping and her face falling.
The waves lapped at her feet.
“Well, thinking about it ain’t going to help.”
“It’s your fault! Come on and help.”
“I apologised instead.”
“You’re so irresponsi-” she started with a pout before being startled and pulling her phone from her pocket when she got a message, “Ah, it’s from Rena-chan…”
Her expression grew tense as she looked at the screen.
“What’s it say?”
“‘Sorry, it just happened.’”
“Just, huh.” He couldn’t help but laugh.
“‘I’ve fallen out of love with Maesawa-senpai.’”
“How terrible. Well, if a little crap on his face was enough, it wasn’t much of a crush I guess.”
People only saw what people showed, if you really loved someone, it shouldn’t matter if they showed something unsightly for a moment. Because even with that unsightliness, they were still them.
“‘Everyone’s revising, want to come?’”
Apparently, she was happy to reconcile once the misunderstanding was resolved. Tomoe sent a reply, then her expression grew into a smile after several messages between them.
However, even once she put the phone away, she showed no sign of leaving the sea.
“You not going to go?”
“I sent that you were helping me study today.”
Tomoe showed the screen to Sakuta. Instead of an actual message, each of th4e other three had sent smirking images.
“Ah, right, Senpai?”
“There’s something I want to say,” Tomoe started before fidgeting.
“Need the loo?”
“What is it then?”
“I-I… um, I haven’t done it.”
Sakuta knew exactly what she was on about, but feigned ignorance because he was enjoying her embarrassment. In the end, she seemed to know how to explain.
She took a deep breath.
“I’m a virgin!” She came out with, looking up at him.
Sakuta couldn’t hold it in anymore and burst into laughter.
“D-don’t laugh at me,” Tomoe complained, kicking at the water, splashing it at Sakuta, who neatly dodged.
“Don’t dodge!” She protested.
“Did you think I believed those rumours?”
“I didn’t, but I did think it would have been awful if you did.”
“I mean, coming out with ‘I’m a virgin!’ is pretty brave,” Sakuta said as they walked past an elderly couple walking their dog.
“D-don’t say it so loudly!”
“You’re the one that said it.”
“B-but… I wanted to make sure it was clear.”
“That yell’s clearly in my memory. Well, it’s not like I care about that.”
There would be no end to it, so Sakuta walked away from her.
Tomoe ran after him, splashing as she did.”
They walked on for a while, Tomoe in the water, Sakuta on the sand… They didn’t get closer than two metres apart, or further than two metres apart.
“Didn’t you say you’d had a boyfriend though?” He threw at her with a half laugh.
“Senpai, you’re asking me that even though you know it’s a lie,” she said, looking at him with an embarrassed anger.
“I wouldn’t have thought it was weird if you did.”
“Everyone was saying that they’d had boyfriends in middle school. Rena-chan, Hinako-chan, Aya-chan, everyone. Hinako-chan is still with hers.”
“I didn’t say that I had? Everyone just kinda said that I must have… and I didn’t want to deny it, so that’s how things ended up like this…”
“Besides, if I said I’d never dated, I thought you’d make fun of me.”
“What on Earth are you even fighting?”
If he had to say, it was her social appearance, what everyone expected to see from her. Tomoe put in effort every day, effort she didn’t really understand, in order to protect the image of ‘Koga Tomoe’ for people. She fought on to create a ‘self’ that no one could hate. Fighting against something invisible… like the atmosphere.
“Say, Senpai?” Tomoe glanced sidelong at him while kicking at the waves.
“Hm?”Sakuta replied, taking care over where he placed his feet as if the sand would trip him up.
“How do I pay you back for this?”
The footsteps at his side stopped. Sakuta took two more steps, then a third, before he turned around and looked back at her.
Tomoe was waiting there with a serious expression.
“What are you on about with such a serious look?”
“I’m asking seriously.”
“You don’t need to pay me back. Japan already broke through the group league.”
The other day, during the finals with the reigning champions, they had won with an explosion of aggressive footballing four years in the making.
Just as promised, Tomoe had supported them from the bottom of her heart. She had shown him a picture the other day of her wearing the uniform with the rising sun painted onto her face.
“If that’s not enough, then come out with me this weekend.”
“I got paid, so I wanted to buy my sister some clothes, but I don’t have a clue about fashion.”
Even as she agreed, Tomoe didn’t seem entirely happy with things, probably not thinking it was enough to pay him back.
“Fine then, one more thing?”
Tomoe leaned forwards eagerly.
“Once we’re done with this lie, be my friend.”
Tomoe’s eyes opened wide in shock at the unexpected request before she started to giggle, but with a slightly unhappy expression.
“Do you not want to?”
“I do, but also don’t.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tomoe seemed to be worried about something, putting her right hand to her chest and clenching and un-clenching it, unable to calm down.
“You don’t have to you know.”
“It’s fine, I’ll be your best friend,” she said with a smile that sparkled in the summer sun.
“Nah, you just need to be my friend.”
Sakuta and Tomoe had walked two stations worth of distance when they got on the train at Koshigoe Station.
Before they sat down, they checked the carriages. It had already been an hour since the confrontation with Maesawa-senpai so there were hardly any passengers wearing Minegahara uniforms. Essentially everyone had quickly returned home to prepare for the next day’s exams.
Tomoe’s face relaxed.
They took a pair of empty seats. There was a group of university group opposite them, cheering as the train weaved between houses.
“This is great!”
“They’re so close, we’re gonna hit them.”
“It’s fairly novel.”
Sakuta was thinking perhaps the exact opposite… and then his eyes met Tomoe’s, who seemed to be thinking the exact same thing, bringing a smile to both of their faces. It wasn’t new, it was more of a nostalgic feeling, their language was confused.
“Oh yeah, Koga, where did you want to start?” Sakuta asked.
“Eh? We’re actually going to study?”
“If we don’t, you’ll be lying to your friends.”
“…Are you good at chemistry?” She asked probingly.
“I’m probably better than you.”
“That’s kinda humiliating.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I want to find out whether you actually are.”
“Want to come over then?”
“My parents aren’t home.”
“Don’t shout on the train.”
The other passengers looked at them for a second.
“B-but, um, I’m not ready… but, um, okay.”
She started out panicked, moved to being flustered, and then embarrassed before finally nodding and agreeing quietly.
“I-I’m not. Don’t treat me like a kid.”
“It’s just because you’ve not started to climb the staircase of adulthood.
Sakuta then spent the next several minutes explaining ten reasons that he wouldn’t lay a hand on Tomoe, one by one. Tomoe spent the time listening disinterestedly and purposefully stood on Sakuta’s foot as they got off the train.
Ten minutes or so of walking from the station brought them to Sakuta’s home once they rode the lift up five floors.
“I’m baaack,” Sakuta called as he opened the door.
“Welc…” Kaede started as she poked her head from the living room, but then she noticed that Sakuta wasn’t alone and hid behind the door, peeking out at Tomoe like an animal cornered by a predator. “Onii-chan, you brought yet another girl home.”
“Come on, come in,” he said to Tomoe, ignoring what could sound like a fairly rude statement.
“S-sorry to intrude,” Tomoe said with a polite bow, taking her shoes off and then following Sakuta’s direction into his room.
Sakuta was about to follow her in when Kaede grabbed his cuff.
“What?” He asked.
“If you’re going to bring some hostess home, call ahead,” Kaede tip-toed and whispered into his ear.
“You’ve got this wrong, Kaede.”
Besides, Tomoe didn’t really have the sex appeal to be called a hostess. She didn’t even have her hair done, and she was barely wearing any makeup. Besides, what was that about bringing one home? He’d heard of hostesses arriving at work with a customer, but never going home with one.
“How much did you pay her?”
“Her name’s Koga Tomoe, she’s in the year below me at school.”
“If you wanted someone younger, you have me!”
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m going to tell Mai-san.”
That was a slight issue, she had agreed with what was going on, more or less, but obviously, a report would displease the queen.
“Your brother’s studying now, so I’ll talk to you later,” he told Kaede, peeling her off and closing the door.
“Go ahead and sit down,” he then addressed Tomoe, offering her a cushion. She quietly knelt in proper seiza, sitting on her feet. Sakuta unfolded a collapsible table in front of her, “it’d be better if you don’t sit on your feet.”
“R-right.” Taking care not to let her skirt ride up, Tomoe moved her lower legs apart and sat between them, her legs forming a W around her.
Sakuta sat opposite her, then opened his language book for his exam tomorrow. Tomoe had opened her chemistry book but didn’t seem to be looking at it. Instead, she was surveying his room, she blushed when her gaze reached his bed, and her shoulders slumped when she reached his desk.
“I can’t,” she yelled, flipping her book closed and shoving it into her bag, hurriedly trying to shoulder it, but not managing to get her arms through the straps, “I-I’ll study with Rena-chan and the others!”
She clattered out of his room as she chattered on.
“T-thanks for having me!” She yelled back as she burst from the front door.
“Oiii, Koga,” Sakuta called, coming out of the door with a single sandal on.
She was already in front of the lift, and the bell rang with its arrival.
After a moment, the door opened. Tomoe went to rush on to the lift, but froze, her mouth open.
There was someone in the lift.
“Ah,” said Sakuta as the person stepped out. They were wearing a Minegahara school uniform. And regardless of the summer heat, Mai was wearing black tights.
Tomoe switched places with Mai. Mai herself looked at Sakuta and Tomoe, half out of the door and just having boarded the lift respectively, comparing them.
Her shoes clicked on the hard floor as she walked towards Sakuta.
“You look like you’re having plenty of fun while I’m not here,” she said, pinching Sakuta’s nose with her slender fingers, “her face was bright red, what did you do?”
She looked reproachfully at him.
“I just said we should study together.”
“I was doing Japanese, Koga was doing chemistry.”
“Hmmm,” looking more and more displeased, Mai tightened her grip.
Sakuta decided he should change the subject as quickly as possible.
“Mai-san… did you bring souvenirs?” He asked, seeing the bag hanging from her other hand. She still seemed unhappy, but finally released his nose.
“I did,” she said, pushing the bag onto him. Looking inside he saw it was filled with nice-looking katsuobushi, fried fish paste, and ‘custadon’, a cake that had custard cream between pieces of sponge. “They still taste good cold.”
“Thank you,” he said. Mai had done what she came to and turned back to the lifts. “Mai-san, you’re not coming in?”
“If I did, it’d be like I was trying to compete with that first-year.”
Mai gave a reason that seemed both reasonable and unreasonable, then left.
There was no point in standing in the corridor, so he went back inside, called Kaede and decided to eat the souvenirs together.
“These are good,” he said.
Tuesday was the second day of the exams. Sakuta had been called to the staffroom, then taken to the guidance counsellor’s office next door and given his exam to sit on his own.
He didn’t even need to ask why, it was because of the fight at the train station, the station staff must have contacted the school.
“Confessing during the mid-terms… fighting during the finals, do you hate exams, Azusagawa?”
“I think not having exams would be nice,” Sakuta replied.
“That’s never going to happen,” said his teacher, his voice growing harsher as he warned him. There were many onlookers, so he had heard everything about the fight. Including that Maesawa-senpai had started it.
Even so, the teacher told him to be careful. What was he supposed to be careful of in this situation? Dog faeces in the road?
According to the teacher, Maesawa-senpai actually hadn’t attended today.
Sakuta left the room when school ended to find Tomoe waiting for him. She seemed somewhat apologetic, probably worried over him being called to the office.
“Do well on your exams?” Asked Sakuta.
“Not really,” she replied listlessly, “I said I’d study with my friends, but we just ended up chatting at a restaurant.”
Sakuta set off first and Tomoe rushed after him.
“What about you, Senpai?”
“You did well?”
“Ah, you’re like me then,” Tomoe said, seeming a bit happier to find someone similar, even if it wouldn’t raise her own marks, “Ah, yeah, Senpai, get a phone.”
“You know I left out of nowhere yesterday? Well, um… I was worried about what you thought about it.”
“I just thought you were an emotionally unstable girl.”
Tomoe’s face flushed at that as she seethed with anger.
“You’re supposed to be supportive!” She glared sidelong at him with a frown. “You were called by the teachers so I couldn’t talk to you earlier… and I couldn’t concentrate on my exams.”
“Don’t make it sound like my fault.”
She still seemed unhappy, pouting and looking up at him.
“But, um… was that it?” Asked Tomoe, even more reservedly.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you think anything else about yesterday?”
“I don’t really think of you much.”
“The way you say it annoys me… but I see.”
Tomoe trailed off thankfully into mutters, looking relieved. Sakuta then noticed something around her eyes.
“Did you stay up studying all night?”
It was rather tragic if she did and still didn’t do well.
“I didn’t, why?”
“You’ve got panda eyes.”
“No way!” She took out a mirror and checked. “Ahh, I really do, gotta go fix it!”
She immediately rushed off to a nearby toilet.
Sakuta was left alone and just murmured his thoughts to himself.
“It looks like the marks you get from crying a lot.”
On the next day, the Wednesday marking the mid-point of the exams, Sakuta could take his exam in his classroom.
He saw Maesawa-senpai on the way in to school that morning, apparently recovered from the shock. However, when they met gazes, his hostility was clear, so he might not have really re-thought his stance much.
The atmosphere in the carriage was the worst, with the words ‘dog crap’ being muttered around the place and people pointing at both of them. There was also the phrase ‘virgin shout’ going around, which was definitely meant to mock Sakuta, but it didn’t really matter to him.
Regardless, that was the extent of the event’s influence. He’d have thought that the commotion over it would have been a little more excessive, but with the exams going on, it was relatively reserved, everyone was just worrying about themselves.
The one thing that was utterly clear, however, was how far Sakuta and Tomoe’s relationship had pervaded through the school. They knew that Sakuta and Maesawa-senpai had had an argument, and that Sakuta had protected Tomoe, which was clearly the act of a boyfriend for his girlfriend. That bittersweet ‘more than schoolmates, less than lovers’ wouldn’t be believed now.
Their relationship ‘naturally falling apart over the holidays’… might no longer be believed even. They’d need a more concrete reason to break up.
These were the thoughts occupying Sakuta’s mind as he looked out at the sea, waiting for the exam to end.
The weather was awful on the Thursday, with spotty showers repeating over the day. Even as the afternoon arrived, the blue sky didn’t show itself, and his clothes were lying in his room, drying.
“Hey, eyes on your paper!” He was in his room with that washing hanging up, and Mai was there too for some reason.
He’d been eating peacefully with Kaede, and then once he had finished the washing, she had arrived, and given the ultimatum that she would be helping him study, thus bringing us to the present.
There was a folding table spread out in the middle of the room, with Mai and Sakuta sitting across it, and when Sakuta looked at her expression from about forty-five degrees around the table from her, he could see her displeasure.
“Mai-san, are you angry?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because you came out of nowhere to make me study.”
“We have exams tomorrow. I told you I’d help. Come one, solve this one,” said Mai, pointing at the physics problem, a question on the Doppler effect. “You have five minutes.”
She had strict principles.
“I just don’t want to fail.”
“Sakuta, have you thought of your path in life?”
“I’d like to stay married to you for life.”
Mai wordlessly started clicking her mechanical pencil. She didn’t have a notebook to hand, so she was probably planning something other than writing, like Stabbing Sakuta. He should probably keep the jokes in moderation, he decided, for his health.
“I thought I might go to university,” he said. There were two conditions he would have to meet for that, the first was just a matter of academics. If he couldn’t pass the exam, he couldn’t go. The other was the economic situation of the house. His father had indirectly told him that a private university might be tough. “What about you?”
“I plan to go to university.”
“Aren’t you going to focus on your work?”
“I can do both. I have before after all.” She was even now, actually. “I was thinking of going to a place in Yokohama.”
Whether it was a national or city university, it would still be tough to get into.
“Well, you’re brilliant after all.”
He’d heard that she’d never had anything less than an ‘8’ on her report card.
Mai rested her chin on her hands and stared at his face. He could feel some kind of intent from her, so Sakuta looked away.
“Don’t you look away,” she scolded him. “You want to go to the same university as me, right?”
Mai’s words were exactly what he was expecting.
“You do, don’t you?” Mai repeated with a smile, pointing the tip of her pencil at him.
“If I can.”
“Then shouldn’t you study properly?”
Sakuta remained silent.
“A public one should lessen the burden on your parents, and you can easily commute to Yokohama from here.”
Mai was completely right, and it removed all of his protests. The Winter Campaign had failed, and suddenly it was the Summer Campaign.
“No, it’s just, well.”
“Why so half-hearted?”
“It’s just a problem of academics,” Sakuta got average marks, a perfect, average ‘6’.
“So you just need to study.”
“I’m against it because I don’t want to do that studying.”
“Even though I’ve said this much to you?”
“There’s nothing about ‘this much’, I still haven’t heard what you want.”
At that, Mai straightened and stopped resting her head on her hands and stared fixedly at Sakuta.
“If I said ‘I want to go to university with you’, would you try hard?”
Mai’s cheeks were a little flushed. She might have been acting, but her words were like an arrow through Sakuta’s heart.
“W-what?” She asked at his look.
“I really want to push you down right now.”
“I’ll stab you.”
Sakuta raised his hands in surrender before flopping back on the floor.
“Hey, don’t slack off,” she scolded.
“I just can’t get motivated.”
“What if I said I’d teach you in the bunny girl outfit?”
“I’d be motivated in several ways.”
His heart pounded with anticipation at what she might teach him. Though that said, he thought it was a joke anyway.
“If you’ll study, I’ll wear it.”
“Really?” Sakuta shot upright. Mai had already opened his wardrobe and pulled out the bunny girl outfit from its bag.
“I’m changing, get out,” she said, apparently serious.
This was the best opportunity he could ever ask for, he couldn’t let the meal before him go to waste, so left the room with no complaint.
“If you peek, I’ll kill you,” she warned him gravely, closing the door from inside.
Sakuta followed Mai’s order, waiting motionlessly in the corridor. Mai was changing in his room, separated by a single door. He really wanted to just open the door nonchalantly, but kept his desires in check.
Even without taking such a risk, he’d be able to enjoy Mai in a bunny suit if he just waited. When faced with the option of an instant of her nude, or a long time of her in that outfit… Sakuta chose the latter, believing it to be the right choice.
While he waited, Kaede watched him confusedly, but he managed to distract her by saying that Nasuno wanted feeding.
After about fifteen minutes, Mai’s voice came through the door.
“I’m coming in,” he said, just in case.
He’d waited for the reply, and now actually opened the door.
Mai was once more sitting behind the folding table with her legs splayed behind her.
The black leotard clung to every curve of her body. Her slender legs were wrapped in black stockings. There was a bow-tie around her neck, white cuffs encircled her wrists, and a pair of bunny ears rested on her head. The high heels that went with the outfit were placed to the side because they were inside.
Just Mai changing her outfit had completely changed the atmosphere of the room.
“Come on, sit down,” said Mai, her bunny ears moving with the words.
Sakuta sat at the table, his legs touching Mai’s under the table. She didn’t make any move to shift away, apparently allowing this level of skinship.
“Now, study,” she said.
As he had promised, Sakuta opened his notebook and looked at the questions in the textbook.
However, without him even realising it, his gaze was drawn to Mai. To her smooth, bare shoulders, to her pale chest, to the soft valley between her breasts. Her hourglass figure coupled with the artistic curves of her backside and thighs were beautiful, and he wanted to keep looking forever.
“You’ve stopped working,” Mai said, pinching his nose, “don’t look at me, look at the book.”
He’d thought she would be angry, but that didn’t seem to be the case, she actually seemed rather happy to have Sakuta focused on her.
“What’s wrong, Mai-san?”
“Should there be?”
“You just don’t seem too angry.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Did something happen?”
“Not really… I just thought I should give you a treat every so often,” Mai mumbled as she turned away.
“What did you say?”
“I said that I hadn’t thought you would get in a fight for that girl.”
“Did you see that on Monday?”
“I caught the tail end of it. Ah, wash your shoes, okay?”
“I lied about stepping in crap.”
“Ah. Man, that’s just boring,” she said awfully unfairly. Trying to curry favour with a moody queen really was tough. She wasn’t to the point of jealousy, but was just treating things that didn’t amuse her as tiresome.
Mai leaned forwards onto the table, looking up at Sakuta, emphasising her chest as the movement pushed it up.
“Hey, don’t look at my chest.”
“So you just wanted me to pay attention to you?”
“I’ll hit you.”
“Leave my face,” he said, raising a joking guard as Mai punched him lightly on the shoulder before letting out a long sigh.
“Hurry up and cheer me up.”
She was demandingly, but even that suited her and bothered him.
“Do you have any plans over the summer?” He asked.
“Half of it I’ll be working, you?”
“Mostly working, but I want to spend the rest with you, it’s summer after all.”
“We’re not going to the beach or pool.”
“I can’t help it, I’m an actress after all.”
She wasn’t just an actress, she was a popular actress known across the country. If she showed herself at a beach or pool in a swimsuit, the area would probably fall into chaos.
“Just go there with your cute girlfriend,” Mai stabbed at him disinterestedly.
“I love you.”
Her hand whipped out to pinch at his cheek.
“Don’t cheat so brazenly, you’re that first year’s boyfriend right now.”
“There was a beauty in front of me, so I did it accidentally.”
“Don’t ‘accidentally’ confess to people,” she said, smiling even as her tone scolded him. It seemed that she was in a better mood and just enjoying messing with Sakuta. “Come on, study.”
“I won’t let you sleep until you answer all of these questions.”
The page Mai had the book open to was full of physics questions. It was a rather harsh exchange to see her like this, but, a promise was a promise…
After school on Friday, the final day of the five day stretch of exams, Sakuta went shopping with Tomoe as they had agreed.
They rode the JR Tokaido Line from Fujisawa Station for about twenty minutes, arriving at Yokohama Station as Sakuta watched Tomoe’s face while she fervently read a fashion magazine she had taken from her rucksack.
They used the station, always under construction in some way or another, to switch to the Negishi Line. A single stop took them to Sakuragicho.
The recently built second tallest tower in Japan and the huge Ferris wheel drew the eye, a different sort of seaside city to Shichirigahama.
It was probably what most people would think of when they imagined Yokohama. Even when they left the station, they couldn’t savour the atmosphere.
“Senpai, you were originally from Yokohama, right? Or is that a rumour too?”
“I lived further inland, where you couldn’t see the sea at all. Yokohama’s a big city.”
He wondered if she was listening or not… Tomoe had taken her phone and was using it to take distant photos of the Ferris wheel. It might be a lie, but they were a couple until the end of term, so she was concentrating on making memories.
Sakuta and Tomoe first went to a big store about seven or eight minutes walk from the station. It was a new store that had been open for about a year, so of course, everything was rather clean.
It took roughly thirty minutes to finish the shopping they set out to do. With Sakuta’s suggested budget or seven or eight-thousand yen, Tomoe picked out a complete set of clothes that seemed like they would suit Kaede. They certainly seemed fashionable, and were surprisingly inexpensive.
He had some slack left in his wallet, so he should look to get her some appropriate things to wear under the clothes.
“What kind of panties are you wearing?”
Silence reigned for several moments.
“Eh?” She said, her mouth dropping open.
“Are you not wearing any?”
“I am! They’re no- wait, what are you making me say!? What are you asking!?”
“Nah, I just thought she’d need underwear that works for a fifteen-year-old too.”
“She can just buy that herself.”
“Ah, I didn’t say anything about it when you were over, but Kaede’s a girl that likes the house more than anyone else.”
“A girl that likes the house?” Asked Tomoe in puzzlement.
“She’s a shut-in, she got bullied in middle school.”
“Eh, what about your mother?”
“A lot of things with Kaede weighed down on her, and we don’t live together anymore. Our dad looks after her.”
Tomoe looked at his face in silence.
“I finally get it.”
“Why you helped me.”
“Man, you’re amazing at reading the atmosphere.”
There was no point in denying it now, so Sakuta admitted to it readily.
“You are too, people think you can’t and exclude you because of it… but you can, you just don’t.”
“Is that so?”
“It is,” Tomoe said, laughing and moving off to the left. “Wait there a minute.”
“I-it doesn’t matter! Just don’t move!” Tomoe told him before heading up a nearby escalator.
After about ten minutes, she returned holding an opaque blue plastic bag.
Sakuta took the bag and went to look inside.
“Wah, no looking!”
“B-because, they’re the same as the ones I’m wearing now.”
She shifted, holding her skirt down. Sakuta looked between her and the bag.
“I want to look even more now,” he said, going to look again.
“No! You can’t! Geez, Senpai, you’ll make Sakurajima-senpai hate you if you just say perverted things like that.”
“Huh?” Why was she bringing Mai up, he wondered.
“You got a nationally famous actress to like you, you’ll regret it.”
“I thought you were sure I was misunderstanding things?”
More precisely, she had asked if Mai herself had ever said so when she was in the infirmary with a cold.
“But then I saw her coming to your house.”
“Oh yeah, when she brought the souvenirs.”
They had come across each other when Tomoe had come to study.
“I’ll help you so things go well with her.”
“And who’s fault is it that we’re not dating?”
“Ugh… W-well, I’ll support you.”
“Sure sure, thanks, I appreciate the feelings… Well, what are we doing now, was there anything you wanted to buy?”
“Eh? Ah, yeah, can I just look for one thing?”
Sakuta went up a floor with Tomoe into a vivid, colourful area. There were swimsuits on sale, many different styles and colours lined up on racks.
“I promised that I’d go to the beach with Rena-chan and the others. I only have my school swimsuit… I wonder what everyone will wear.”
“Can’t you just wear your middle school one?”
“Why’d I go back to that? Ah, what about this one?”
Tomoe held a frilly pink bikini somewhat shyly in front of herself.
“Staring at a whole bunch of padding doesn’t excite me.”
“I’m not wearing it to show you.”
“For that kind of swimsuit,” Sakuta began, originally intending to direct her gaze to a well-endowed mannequin, but some a beautiful blonde woman that would be more persuasive. She was a glamorous foreign woman that would just steal your breath away at a glance.
She had clear blue eyes and plump, erotic lips. You could tell that she was very well endowed even through her clothes, and her waist pulled in tight. She was probably about as tall as Mai, tall for a woman. The woman looked to be in her early to mid-twenties. She was in a corner of the swimsuit area talking to a slender woman with long black hair in fluent Japanese, cheerfully asking for opinions on various swimsuits.
No, looking closer the second person wasn’t a woman, they were a man with delicate features, closer to ‘refined’ than just ‘handsome’. He looked about the same age as the woman.
It wasn’t just Sakuta and Tomoe watching them, the whole store seemed interested in the international couple.
“What about this?” The woman asked.
“Just pick the one you want,” replied the man, in an apparently bad mood.
“No need to be shy, no one’s watching,” she wheedled.
Actually, I anything, everyone was watching. On top of that, he didn’t seem shy, he seemed annoyed. What on Earth was their relationship like?
“They’re all the same.”
“Do you mean they’d all suit me?” The blonde woman laughed teasingly. It was actually rather similar to Mai. She had the confidence of a woman that knew how good she looked. She was joking, but the words themselves were no joke.
“That’s right,” The man immediately admitted. She didn’t seem to expect that and just blinked for a moment. But she soon smiled in real happiness, a brilliant smile that seemed to light up her surroundings.
“It’s rare for you to compliment me.”
“I just said the truth,” he said before moodily leaving the area.
“Ah, wait!” She bounced after him, forcibly linking arms with him as he looked disagreeable.
“You went back to England, why are you back in Japan?”
“I told you that I came for an art exhibition, didn’t I? Ah, my parents came this time as well, so please come to meet them tonight.”
“W-wait a minute, I hadn’t heard anything about them coming.”
“That’s why I just told you.”
Wasn’t this an interesting development? However, the two of them boarded the escalator and vanished downstairs, so there was no way to know how their conversation ended.
“Well, that’s how it is,” said Sakuta, turning back to Tomoe once he regained his concentration, “leave bikinis for when you’ve grown up like that blonde.”
“That’s never gonna happeeeen.”
“Isn’t that better?” Sakuta asked as he picked up a nearby swimsuit.
The top was like a camisole, covering from the chest to the waist. The bottoms were like shorts. Looking closely, you could see that the top and bottom would overlap.
“I’ll think a little more, I’ll buy one this time.”
After staring at it for a moment, Tomoe put the swimsuit back where it came from.
Once they were done shopping, Sakuta and Tomoe took a walk to Yamashita Park. It was a large park that overlooked the sea. Tomoe took pictures on her phone, occasionally taking couple-y ones with Sakuta.
As the sun started to set, Tomoe pointed at the Ferris wheel and suggested they end the day with that.
The city stretched out, lit up beneath them as the gondola slowly rose. The buildings were also illuminated by the evening sun, so she took pictures here too, commemorating the date.
Once it reached its full height, Sakuta brought up something he felt might be a problem.
“What?” She asked from where she was pressing her face into the glass, besotted with the sights outside.
“Shouldn’t you think about how we’ll break up?”
“Eh? Ah, yeah, I know.” Tomoe answered as she turned around. Judging by her attitude, she had already noticed as well. Their relationship was well known within the school, and the fact that Sakuta felt so strongly as to fight an older student had also spread throughout the school. Saying that they just drifted apart during the holidays would be a little tough, creating a proper reason to break up would be safer.
“I’ve already thought of how I’ll dump you.” Smiled Tomoe like she was suggesting a new game.
“Wait, I’m the one getting dumped?”
“I’m going to go with ‘you couldn’t get over Sakurajima-senpai, and when I realised, I dumped you’.”
“That’s oddly realistic.”
“I’m going to end it with a slap and shouting ‘I don’t need you!’”
“We’re not actually doing that, are we?”
“It’s important to be realistic.”
“So we are…?”
“Make sure you’re free after the closing ceremony. I’m planning the fight for after a date at the beach.”
Tomoe related her plan to slap Sakuta with a smile.
The Ferris wheel was full of couples as it revolved, but there was not a hint of that kind of atmosphere between Sakuta and Tomoe. There weren’t the forced feelings between false lovers either. If they had to put their relationship into words, it would be as friendly schoolmates. They had grown close enough to just naturally play around with each other.
That was why they felt like they would keep the promise they had made earlier in the term.
“Once we’re done with this lie, be my friend.”
The conversation they had been having was just like that of a pair of friends.
“Senpai, what are you grinning at?”
“Ehhh, tell meeee.”
To Sakuta, it was a wonderfully comfortable relationship.
The exams had finished and the entire school had completely shifted to a holiday mood. Even as they worried and rejoiced over their marks as they were returned, everyone had the attitude of ‘just one more week.’
The beach was now open, so focusing properly on practice exams in the classroom was ridiculous. Swimming on Shichirigahama beach being forbidden due to the choppy waves was a small help. There probably would have been a minor mutiny if they could see people swimming. That said, Yuigahama beach could be seen from the windows to the left, and Enoshima’s east beach was visible to the right.
The beach huts were distantly visible, and gazing on them every day would make it all in vain even if the students were studying.
The teachers themselves seemed to know this and weren’t particularly passionate either. There was just an aura of pointlessness in the air.
There were already a large number of students already swimming after school. You could tell from seeing their skin which had burnt bright red. This was all part of the summer scene for a seaside school.
Thus, the days passed peacefully.
Sakuta’s false relationship with Tomoe went well too, with no one doubting it. Tomoe was getting on with her friends and she told him during their work shift that she would be going with Rena, Hinako, and Aya to buy a swimsuit.
“Senpai, do you want to see my swimsuit?”
“Nah, not really. More importantly,” he began.
“Don’t say ‘more importantly’ to that!” She interrupted.
“My sister really liked those clothes you chose, thanks.”
“Ah, right, I’m glad.”
“But to think that you’d wear underwear like that.”
“Eh!? You looked!?”
“You’re surprisingly daring under your skirt.”
Sakuta spent his days like that, and the last week of term finally came to an end. The last day, the tenth of July, a Friday, arrived all too quickly with no fanfare.
Sakuta was woken by Kaede shaking him the same way she did every morning on the day of the closing ceremony.
“Morning, Kaede.” He greeted.
“Good morning.” She replied.
Sakuta left his room and started cooking breakfast, turning the TV on as he waited for the toast to finish. A highlight reel from the Fresh All-Star game that had taken place the night before. The team was made up of nothing but young players and had good prospects in both leagues and had filled Nagasaki Stadium.
Sakuta watched it absently as he ate with Kaede, Nasuno crunching on his own food at their feet.
“The summer holidays start tomorrow,” said Kaede.
“Hmm, what do we need for summer then?”
“A watermelon,” Kaede suggested.
“I’ll go buy one then, I guess.”
“A round one would be good.”
Eating an entire watermelon would be tough. Maybe sharing some with Mai would work, Sakuta thought as he got ready for school and left.
“See you later, Onii-chan,” chimed Kaede as she watched him leave.
He got the train with Yuuma that day, they ended up standing together and holding the hand straps.
“What are you planning over the summer, Sakuta?”
“Well, Koga-san will be there,” Yuuma said teasingly. Sakuta ignored the tone. Yuuma had been quizzical about the relationship at first, but had decided ‘it might work?’ after watching them each day.
“Work, club stuff, dates.”
“You youthful prick.”
“You shouldn’t call people that,” Yuuma playfully bumped his shoulder into Sakuta’s as they continued their inconsequential conversation until they got to school.
After their morning homeroom, every student gathered in the gym for the closing ceremony. It was too hot, so the headteacher’s grateful words didn’t enter their minds, there were even students holding fans and waving them at themselves. The teachers were hot too, so they didn’t complain.
Once Sakuta returned to his classroom, he had the final homeroom of the term. The teacher called each of them up by name and handed over their results.
Sakuta, with his surname of ‘Azusagawa’, was called up straight away, without even the time to get nervous and had reality thrust before him in the form of a grading out of ten.
His results were mostly normal, though his physics grade had risen to an ‘8’ thanks to Mai’s Bunny Lessons. Even so, his average remained firmly at ‘6’.
There was a small warning from his teacher about his fight with Maesawa-senpai, but it was written indirectly, and there wasn’t anything else interesting on there.
“Be careful that you don’t get hurt messing around this summer,” said the teacher, ending homeroom. The last words of the term hadn’t changed since Sakuta was in elementary school.
After the student on duty told them ‘rise, bow’, the classroom erupted into cheers. It was over, hurray, it’s finally here, and various other yells mixed together.
Sakuta quickly left the room, hearing those cheers behind him.
The corridors were filled with students that didn’t want to leave each other. They would have lots of free time, so Sakuta thought they should just exchange numbers and go home, but apparently there was some reason they couldn’t do so.
Because there were so many students in the corridors, the path to the station was actually emptier than usual, as was Shichirigahama Station itself, there were only about ten others there when Sakuta arrived.
Sakuta walked to the end of the Fujisawa-bound side and waited for the train. He had about six minutes to wait.
Before it arrived, Tomoe arrived at a jog.
“Ah, you got here first,” she said.
They’d promised to go to the beach together after school today. It would be their last date and they were meeting here.
Tomoe’s clothes didn’t seem to be sitting right on here as she kept fiddling with her waistband.
“I changed into my swimsuit at school,” she answered before he could ask when she noticed where he was looking.
This was a secret technique in schools near the sea. Students that had club activities would come back to school when they were done to use the changing room showers. Yuuma had said he did so last year.
“Senpai, you’ve got a dirty look.”
Flashes of pink from her swimsuit were showing from under her blouse.
“That means stop staring so much,” she said, holding her tote bag in front of her chest.
The train came trundling into the station as they talked.
Sakuta and Tomoe alighted at the Enoshima Enoden Station, and were at the eastern beach within ten minutes. The beach was a wide arc, and always packed at this time of year.
It was still a weekday, so there were only locals around, which made the beach feel rather empty.
They parted for a while in front of the beach huts. Sakuta changed into his trunks, putting on a T-shirt because showing his chest scars would make him seem like a bad person. He put his things in a locker and went outside, just at the same time as Tomoe who finished quickly because she changed at school.
“Right, let’s swim.”
“Eh? You’re not going to give me your thoughts?”
“I thought you didn’t want me to look too much?”
Sakuta remembered the swimsuit she was wearing, it was the one he had picked up when they were shopping the week before. She hadn’t bought anything then, but she must have found and bought the same one when she went shopping with her friends.
“Well, I think you look cute.”
“D-don’t call me cute.”
“What do you want me to say then?”
“…That I’m cute, I guess?” She answered after a moment’s thought.
“So you’re emotionally unstable again today?”
“That’s what a maiden’s heart is like.”
“Ain’t the foggiest.”
“You seriously irritate me, Senpai.”
“I guess I’ll go get some grilled corn if I’ve annoyed you.”
Sakuta turned on his heel and faced the beach huts.
“I’ll come too.” She called, rushing after him until she reached his side.
Sitting in the summer sun as they eat the corn was superb.
The heavens suddenly opened while they were eating, but they’d get wet in the sea anyway, so that didn’t matter.
At lunchtime, they ate yakisoba at the beach huts and then Sakuta took Tomoe to the water to follow the food with some exercise as they splashed each other with water. Once they were tired they came back to the sand to make castles.
“Let’s see whose castle stands up to the waves better,” Sakuta suggested.
“The loser has to buy shaved ice,” added Tomoe.
“Don’t come crying to me when you lose.”
“The same goes for you.”
Sakuta ended up losing. The deciding factor was a depression in front of the castle. It was where Tomoe had sat while making it and left a mark in the sand with her backside.
“Your backside saved you, Koga.”
“S-shut up. You’ve still got to pay up.”
Tomoe covered her backside with her hands and her face went red.
A loss was a loss, so Sakuta went and bought the shaved ice. Tomoe asked for strawberry syrup with hers, and Sakuta had melon syrup with his.
As the sun began to set, Sakuta and Tomoe sat on the beach and absently watched a five and six-year-old boy and girl playing with a beach ball. The girl’s vicious strikes overwhelmed the boy and he caught the ball with his face several times.
“Thank you for everything until today.”
Sakuta didn’t reply.
“Here,” said Tomoe, sticking out her hand, “shake hands.”
“As a farewell.”
Sakuta wiped his hand off on his T-shirt and took Tomoe’s small hand in his own.
“Senpai, you ended up still loving Sakurajima-senpai, and I gave up on you and dumped you,” said Tomoe as if she was reading a story while she looked out at the waves.
“You don’t need to slap me?”
“I’ll just say I did. If I hit you now, I’d be being way too ungrateful.”
“Well, good work then,” said Sakuta, not entirely sure what he should say in this situation.
“Have a good summer.”
“You too, Senpai… I hope you can date Sakurajima-senpai.”
“Well, I’ll take it slowly.”
Tomoe let go of his hand and stood up.
“Let’s go home,” she said with a smile.
“Yeah, I’m tired from playing in the sea,” Sakuta agreed, hauling himself to his feet.
“You sound like an old man,” Tomoe laughed at him as they collected their things and headed to the beach huts. Once they were done changing, they boarded the Enoden and headed back to Fujisawa.
“Senpai, what are you doing over the summer?”
They rode with that kind of pointless conversation…
Without anything sexual whatsoever…
It was just the end to an enjoyable time. An easy day spent with a friend that they knew well.
Thus, their lie to the entire school ended safely, with no one finding out, and a fun, enjoyable summer arrived.
Everything went well thanks to Senpai.
It’s alright now.
I’m sure it’ll be alright.
I might have made a mistake because Senpai was here.