Chapter 5

Just up until a little while ago, I thought it’d become a big trouble if everyone were to know I was dating Shirakawa-san. Like being scrutinized with curious eyes, pointed with fingers and laughed at…. I even imagined I’d be cussed at whenever I passed by someone.

That was why I was thrown off when I came to school the next day after the coming out to find the classroom was surprisingly the same as usual.

If anything, what changed a little was.

“““Good morning, Kashima-kun”””

Some girls from my class, whom I’d never talked to before, greeted me as I walked past them.

“Go-good morning….”

“I didn’t notice it before because he didn’t stand out, but Kashima-kun is not so bad, isn’t he”

“He seems kind too. And he’s not ugly”

“Yeah, definitely a good guy. I mean, that Shirakawa-san chose him after all!”

From what I’ve heard here and there, it looked like they’re not bad-mouthing me.

When I sat on my seat, Kurose-san, who was sitting next to me, glanced at me.

“Good….. good morning”

It was awkward because of yesterday, but our eyes met so I greeted her.

“….G-good morning”

I thought she would’ve ignored me, but Kurose-san returned back my greeting in a small voice like it’s a murmur. Her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes were swimming around as if embarrassed.

“….?”

I thought Kurose-san must’ve been feeling awkward too, so I tried to not talk to her any further.

However, in the homeroom before returning.

When the class was passing the paper around from the back to the front because they had to collect the submissions at the teacher’s desk, I saw Kurose-san still waiting for the papers from behind her while I’ve got all the papers from my row.

“Kurose-san”

When I called out to her and tried to give her our row’s portion, the shoulders of Kurose-san, whose back of her head was facing over here, jerked up. However, she didn’t seem to want to turn over here.

Wondering if she hadn’t heard me, I tapped her lightly on the shoulder.

“Hyaa!”

Kurose-san then let out a small shriek and turned her head over here.

Her face was bright red, and she looked at me with a disordered face as if she had been molested.

“Wha, do-don’t touch me so suddenly!”

“Eh, so-sorry”

“I hate you!”

“….”

Looks like I’ve got completely hated.

Well, I guess that makes sense…. Yesterday, I gave her a lecture-like thing in that way too…. and it’s after I thought of that.

In the middle of the buzzling classroom, after the submissions had been submitted and the teacher started giving out notification printouts.

“….Hey”

This time, I was surprised when Kurose-san started to talk to me instead.

“Yeah?”

I wonder what she needs…. and when I looked at her, Kurose-san was sending glances at me and her ears were red.

“….I think.. I was in the wrong. So last night…. I called her, and apologized”

“Eh?”

What is she talking about? So I thought about it for a moment.

“….Could it be, to Shirakawa-san?”

When I asked, Kurose-san nodded her head

“That’s why….”

Kurose-san continued in a faint voice.

“Can you please, not hate me….?”

While embarrassed, with a red face and casting her eyes down, she told me.

“Eh….?”

Only for a moment, I thought she was cute.

“…..”

Why is she asking me that? Even though earlier she said she “hates” me….  I was puzzled and thought about it.

This girl is a girl who works hard for her aim to be liked by people. She probably couldn’t stand the thought of possibly being hated by me after what happened yesterday.

That’s what I came to understand, and I was convinced.

“Don’t worry, I don’t hate you”

When I replied to her, Kurose-san looked over here for a moment and looked like she was about to cry.

And with that, she turned her face away from me without saying anything, turned her body to the front and looked down.

“….Eh….?”

My reply, wasn’t the wrong one, wasn’t it?

However, there’s nothing more I could say either way.

Let’s quietly leave Kurose-san be for a while.

Maybe as time passes, the awkwardness will disappear and we will be able to interact as normal classmates.

Hoping that’d happen, I put the distributed printout into my bag and started to get ready to head home.

After that, a few days of school life had passed, and what I came to understand was that everyone didn’t really care about other people as much as I thought they would.

One particular day.

Shirakawa-san casually wandered over to my seat at break time.

“Morning, Ryuuto!”

“G-good morning….”

It’s been exposed so I guess it’s okay, huh. Until now, I practically never talked to her at school so I’m worried about the others’ eyes on me and I get nervous.

“Look, look, look at my nails. I did it myself yesterday”

I looked at Shirakawa-san’s glittery nails, which was a violation of school regulations, but I couldn’t help but mind the eyes from the surroundings.

However, everyone’s reaction was unexpectedly light.

Certainly, there were some people who’re curiously sending glances this way from a distance. However, the majority of my classmates were busy minding their own business.

“….Well, I suppose so”

I wonder what I was afraid of. That’s what unrelated people are.

“Hey, look at it properly”

To me, who was distracted before in front of her, Shirakawa-san insistently held out her hands.

“Ah, yeah, sorry”

So I looked at her again.

“It’s cute, right? See?”

Shirakawa-san’s hands were slender like a girl’s, and her fingers and nails were long and beautiful.

If I were a veteran playboy, at times like these I would’ve been able to skillfully take her hand, and say “Yeah, it’s really cute”. Skinship too would’ve been an easy matter.

However, that’s not my character no matter what I think. I don’t feel like I can, and I don’t feel like I will.

“….What’s wrong? Do you hate.. this kind of nails?”

Because I was staring at Shirakawa-san’s hands with an excessively stern face, Shirakawa-san’s face also turned dubious.

“Ah, right. I think it looks nice. It looks good on you”

When I hurriedly answered her, Shirakawa-san smiled like a blooming flower.

“I’m glad! I did it pretty well, didn’t I? Nikoru even praised me for it”

Shirakawa-san spoke of it proudly, and perhaps satisfied with that, she went back to the group of good-looking girls.

At the same time, some of my classmates, who had been sending glances at us, looked away as if they’d lost interest.

Thus, the gossips from the surrounding were nothing to be afraid of.

Though, the skinship issue was unresolved and it left a fuzzy feeling in me.

My desire to cherish Shirakawa-san hasn’t changed. That’s why, I’m not thinking of such outrageous thing like suddenly wanting to have sex. Well, It’s…. not like I don’t want to do it, though.

It’s just, if Shirakawa-san is liking me more than before then, I want to have physical contacts that correspond to that.

That’s a roundabout way of saying it, however…..

To put it bluntly, I want to kiss her!

Just the thought of kissing with Shirakawa-san…. I feel like my nose is going to bleed.

I want it…. I want to kiss her!

However, I’ve completely no idea how I should do that!

I wonder what the heck kind of technique should I use to make that happen…. In romantic dramas, when two people’s eyes suddenly meet, their lips would pile up on top of another like being sucked in but, I think such a moment will never arrive if I wait for it.

I’ve been thinking nothing but that kind of thing these past few days, so I can’t sleep much at night, and I’m in so much agony that I feel like I’m going to fall flat.

I cannot directly hit Shirakawa-san with this kind of desire.

I said “I want to cherish Shirakawa-san” cooly to her before, and I don’t want to be considered as only aiming for her body.

I wonder how couples in the world can do skinships so naturally? What’s the trigger for that? And in what way?

I wonder whom I should consult at times like this.

When I thought about it, those guys were the only one I could go to after all.

It was lunch break, when the three of us were eating our lunch together as usual.

“….Kashi”

Ichi suddenly put down his chopsticks.

“Eh, what happened now”

Ichi who won’t let go of his bowl until it’s empty once he gets a bite, Ichi who loves eating more than three meals a day, I can’t believe that Ichi interrupted his meal when the contents of his lunch box is still more than half.

As I watched him with that in mind, Ichi suddenly bowed his head.

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t believe you when you said you’re dating Shirakawa-san”

He said it in a gusto, and slumped his shoulders.

“I was so frustrated I didn’t believe you. But, when I saw you and Shirakawa-san the other day, I knew I had to trust you. We are.. friends aren’t we. and you guys have really been dating. That’s great. Even though originally I was the one who forced you to confess”

“Ichi….”

So for a few days since that day, you’ve always been minding about that, huh.

As I started to feel touched, Nishi folded his arms next to me.

“I’m not apologizing”

He spoke like a stubborn father, and gave me a quick glare.

“No matter how harsh we treat you, you can still flirt with Shirakawa-san on your days off, right. I wish you would explode!”

“Nishi….”

But, if I were in Nishi’s position, I can’t say I wouldn’t say such hateful things. Ichi’s just too much of a good guy.

However, that Ichi, he suddenly came closer to me in one go.

“So, have you done it? Of course you’ve done her, right? Tell me at once!”

“Eh, what the heck!?”

Your eyes are bloodshot, hey! I thought you were a good guy, you know!?

“Well, about that….”

Thus, I told them about my current problem.

“….I see. So you want to kiss Shirakawa-san, but you don’t know what to do. So first you want to start by holding hands and in need of some ideas, I see”

Ichi listlessly and exhaustedly muttered.

“Of all people, I wonder why you came to us for a consultation….”

Nishi also looked like a boxer who had just finished a match and was burnt out white.

“So-sorry. I don’t have anyone else I can consult with….”

When I hurriedly apologized, they both exchanged looks and sighed. Then looked at me with a determined face.

“….Can’t be helped. Let’s use our brains to make a man out of Kashi”

“Hm-hmm. Let’s come up with a plan not only to hold hands with Shirakawa-san, but to connect with her heart as well”

You guys….!

“Thank you! You guys really saved me”

That said, they’re not much more experienced than I am. An assembly of three virgins won’t come out with a wisdom of a man wh●re.

“How about ‘You know, I’m actually a palm reader’?”

“Isn’t that just an outright lie. Even with that I don’t know if she will show me her hand”

“You can’t just say that without actually trying it, can’t you”

“I don’t want to lie to Shirakawa-san, okay”

“Then how about, ‘Oh no, it’s so cold! My hands feel so cold it’s freezing’, and see if it’ll work?“

“It’s so roundabout it’s annoying! It’d look like just making an appeal of being sensitive to cold!

“Sheesh, then how about a straight up ’Let’s hold hands’?”

“If I can say that, I wouldn’t have consulted with you guys….”

“Not this not that, you’re really a picky bastard”

After discussing for a while, all of us couldn’t come up with any more ideas.

“Ah sheesh, forget it I don’t know!”

Nishi was the first one to give up, and Ichi too raised both of his hands and looked up to the sky.

“Really, I can’t anymore! It’s not like I can hold hands with a girl, you know”

He complained with a sulky face and sighed grandly.

“Somehow, please help me to do that….”

“Seriously, I can’t anymore. At least go worry about it on your own”

“Earlier I was trying to look cool for once, but the whole time I’ve been on the verge of dying of envy and feel like pissing blood”

Both of them said with a worn out expression, and tried to pull their seats away from me.

“Let’s leave the normie alone and watch KEN’s new videos, shall we”

It was then when I heard Nishi’s words.

“KEN’s videos….”

I felt like some kind of lightbulb went on inside me.

“That’s right, KEN”

If it’s this, I think I can do it.

“Thank you, both of you!”

I said my thanks to the puzzled two and got up from my seat. I wanted a quiet place to collect my thoughts.

I had nowhere to go, so I headed for the toilet and thought about it.

I came up with a hint from KEN’s play.

In a battle royale shooting game, KEN often lured his enemy into the path he wanted them to take and attacked them there. As an ex-pro gamer, his aim was extremely accurate so if he could lure his enemies into a place where there’s no obstacle, he could hit them with pin-point accuracy.

So why don’t I just do the same thing? In other words, instead of being the one trying to hold hands, create a situation where Shirakawa-san will offer her hand to me.1

But, how?

The first thing I came up with was a haunted house but I immediately shook my head and rejected it.

Shirakawa-san seems to be the type who’s fine with ghostly things. She even told me on LINE that she’s watching a foreign horror film last night.

In that case, I’ll have no choice but to attack with physical means. In other words, “Taking her to a place where the footing is unstable”.

A rope bridge or something like that would be best, however I don’t think there’s one nearby and it’s not a viable location for a date.

It could be a big puddle that’s blocking the road, but I don’t know where it is any better than a rope bridge is, and it’s even more meaningless to search for it.

After thinking about all that, I finally came up with something.

“A pond”

We could just take a boat ride on a pond. At the time of getting in and out of the boat, the perfect opportunity to have an unstable footing will arrive.

More importantly, a boat ride is a fitting option for a date.

It’s perfect.

“All right────!”

I unconsciously yelled inside a single stall in the men’s toilet and immediately snapped back to myself and felt embarrassed, so I couldn’t come out for the next few minutes.

“Hey, Ryuuto! Let’s go home together~!”

That day after school, Shirakawa-san came to me.

“Eh….!?”

Shirakawa-san looked into the bewildered me with upturned eyes.

“It’s a no~? Now that it’s known we’re dating, isn’t it nice to sometimes go home together?”

“Ye-yeah, sure….”

“Then it’s decided!”

Said Shirakawa-san in a good mood, and we left from school together.

“How about Yamana-san? Is it fine not going home together with her?”

“Today, Nikoru has a part-time job. At night we’ll be on the phone so it’s okay”

“A part-time job you said, what is she doing?”

“At Izakaya2

“Fuun. It sounds kind of her-like”

“At first, she went for a family restaurant’s job interview, but her nails and hair color were NG3 so she was bummed, she said”

“Is that so”

“The day Nikoru has a part-time job, she tends to get home late, so we always end up on the phone late at night, you see”

I see, so that’s what the late-night long phone calls on the day before a day off were all about, huh

“Does Shirakawa-san.. not have a part-time job or something?”

“That’s okay by me~. When I listened to Nikoru’s story, it felt like I’m gonna be stressed by the terrible customers. Sometimes grandma gives me pocket money, and I somehow get by with that”

“I see”

Then, Shirakawa-san stared at my face.

“….Eh, maybe, it’s better for me to get a part-time job, too?”

“No, I didn’t mean that, but….”

In my head, I just imagined the appearance of Shirakawa-san doing a part-time job a little.

“I just thought a cake shop uniform would look good on you, Shirakawa-san”

After hearing this, Shirakawa-san opened her eyes wide.

“Aah~ you mean that? I mean, a cake shop! You like the cute stuffs, don’t you~ Ryuuto”

“Eh, wait, no!”

Being told that teasingly, I suddenly got so embarrassed I panicked.

“It-it’s not like I have a liking for it or anything, okay!”

“Maybe you like a frilly apron? Like a maid? You’re so easy to understand!”

“No, that’s….!”

“I see now~! So that’s why you’re not in interested in gal clothings”

Shirakawa-san was completely enjoying herself.

“That’s not just….!”

“It’s fine, it’s fine, no need to be shy”

“It-it’s not just me! It’s every man’s dream….!”

“Oh, finally a confession!”

Saying with an exaggerated reaction, Shirakawa-san giggled with a satisfied smile.

“I see, fufufu”

I turned my hot face away from her as she murmured like having caught on my weak point, and I fell silent in embarrassment.

I’m embarrassed Shirakawa-san found out about my preference.

But, being able to have silly talks with Shirakawa-san like this…. At times like this I feel happy because it feels like we’re boyfriend and girlfriend.

Lately, I feel a lot less nervous than before when I’m with Shirakawa-san.

At the beginning, I thought there’s no way I’d have anything in common with the popular Shirakawa-san, so it feels like a mystery we’re able to talk like this now.

I’m unwilling to be spectacularly teased like this, however…. Thus, I searched for a topic that can change this flow.

Then, I remembered about the thing with Kurose-san this morning.

“Speaking of which…. I heard that Kuose-san called you, right?”

Shirakawa-san’s expression stiffened a little after hearing my words.

“Yep…. she apologized to me. I’m already okay with it, though. That aside, I think it’d be nice if I can get along with Maria again….”

“I hope so….”

But I think it’ll take time, though….

“I hope that day will come soon”

I truly felt that way from the bottom of my heart.

We arrived at the station, got on the same train, and got off on the station closest to Shirakawa-san’s together as if a matter of course.

“Ryuuto, do you have time today?”

When Shirakawa-san asked me, I nodded.

“Yeah”

That’s why I’ll send you off until home, and when I was about to say that, Shirakawa-san pulled on my arm.

“Eh….”

I was startled, then Shirakawa-san grinned at me with her cute face.

“Then, we’re gonna make a little detour!”

She touched my arm only for a mere instant, moreover it was just over my uniform shirt.

Shirakawa-san touched me…..

When I thought about it, my cheeks burned up and my arm became hot.

My heart was beating noisily for a while after that.

The place Shirakawa-san took me to was a shopping complex near the station. It’s a typical shopping complex where there’s a series of chain restaurants on the first floor, and stores for daily necessity goods and clothing on the upper floor.

Shirakawa-san brought me along to a corner on the fifth floor, the top floor of the complex, and stopped walking there.

“Look, it’s here!”

What she pointed to was a single glass wall that looked like a showcase. Inside, the space was divided into a number of booths, both horizontally and vertically, each containing one or two animals.

“A pet shop, huh”

“Yep!”

With sparkling eyes, Shirakawa-san ran over to a booth with a cat.

“It’s so cute, isn’t it~! Seriously it’s soothing~! If grandma wasn’t allergic I’d have gotten one too~”

There’s also a dog being showcased but Shirakawa-san refused to move from in front of the cat.

“Shirakawa-san, are you more of a cat person than dog a person?

“Yep! But I think dogs are cute too~!”

After replying to my question, Shirakawa-san stuck to the glass again.

‘Look, look, don’t you think this child’s cute? This child’s going to go soon, so I’ve been coming a lot lately, you see“

What Shirakawa-san pointed to was a gray munchkin kitten in front of her. There’s a signage on the price tag that read “I’ve found a new family”.

“Do you come here often?”

“Yep, this is my favorite place! It’s my routine? I guess? That’s why I wanted to come here with Ryuuto”

She looked at me with both of her hands on the glass.

“Ryuuto, you told me, right? You said ‘I also want to like things Shirakawa-san likes’. That, made me kinda happy, see~”

“Eh….”

I’m pretty sure that was…. what I said on her birthday date for which I investigated lots of bubble drinks stores.

So she remembered it, huh.

“That’s why, somehow…. I want to share lots of things that I like with Ryuuto”

After saying that, Shirakawa-san smiled while slightly embarrassed.

Even though I’m already happy that you actually remember what I had said, I can’t believe you’d say that too.

I’m so moved my chest is getting hot.

“Look, look~ who’s a good kid~”

Shirakawa-san, who was playing with the cat by twirling her finger with its flashy nail like a cat toy through the glass, looked cuter than unusual.

I was somehow prejudiced that “gals” and “animals” were two images that weren’t having any affinity with one another, so this was unexpected and fresh.

“…..Shirakawa-san, do you maybe love animals?“

When I asked her about it, Shirakawa-san looked over here and nodded.

“Yep. But, I really do love cats! But if you ask me about it, I think I like all animals~? A lion is cat-like, right? Huh, or was it a tiger?”

“Then, say….”

I spoke to her while feeling excited that I was able to make the conversation go the direction I had thought of.

“Next time, do you want to go to the zoo?”

“Eh?”

Shirakawa-san looked surprised for a moment but.

“I wanna go!”

She replied with great enthusiasm.

“Eh, going to a zoo feels super nostalgic, though. I think since the field trip in the first year of middle school? Somehow I feel pumped up!”

As I watched her looking happy with sparkling eyes, I made a triumphant pose in my heart that things were unexpectedly starting to move the way I wanted to.

I had an ulterior motive in mind when I invited Shirakawa-san to the zoo.

On the next date, I’ll hold hands with Shirakawa-san. I feel like it’s about time that we at least do that.

And for that reason, taking a boat ride like I’ve thought up earlier is necessary.

Straight up inviting her to a boat ride is fine too, but it’s too plain for a main event of date so the possibility of her asking “Why a boat ride?” is high and even if I try to invite her to a big park for starters, I don’t even know if Shirakawa-san would be interested in such a natural dating spot. And as I was trying to figure out the best way to invite her out, I was able to invite her to a zoo through the flow of events.

Speaking of a zoo around this area, the first one that came to mind was Ueno Zoo.

There’s a big pond on the same ground of Ueno Park, and everyone can take a boat ride there as long as they pay for it. It’s possible to invite her to a boat ride through the natural flow events after visiting the zoo.

It’s perfect.

On that day, all I have to do is gently take her hand when Shirakawa-san wobbles and tries to hold on to me at the moment she is about to get on the boat.

It was then when I was thinking that.

“Say, Ryuuto. What kind of things do you like?”

Shirakawa-san, who was looking satisfied after seeing the cat, asked me with a face more adorable than that of a cat’s.

“Eh?”

As I looked back at her wondering what she was talking about, Shirakawa-san looked away from me, looking slightly shy.

“Me too, I also want to know. Things Ryuuto like….  Can you tell me about it?”

While smiling shyly, she spoke.

“Things Ryuuto like, I want to like it too”

Eh….?

“Shirakawa-san….”

My chest gradually became hot, and I was filled with love for her.

At the same time, I felt very embarrassed that I didn’t have things I liked that I could proudly tell people about.

“Things Ryuuto likes, what is it?”

“Eh…. Umm….”

As I was hesitating to say it, Shirakawa-san asked me curiously.

“You know, Ryuuto. You said you didn’t really have things you wanna do in the city, right? So, what do you do on your days off?”

“Well…. I don’t have anything in mind that I can tell people about….”

Having a hobby of watching Let’s Play Games videos is so gloomy guy-like it’s embarrassing. When I was thinking of this, Shirakawa-san furrowed her brows.

“So, do you do things you can’t say? It’s not like you’re doing anything bad, right?”

“Eh, o-of course”

I hurriedly answered, and Shirakawa-san peered into my face as if to probe.

“So, isn’t it fine then?”

“But….“

“I know! Is that a lewd thing?”

“Yo-you’re wrong!”

I panicked, gave up and confessed.

“….I like watching Let’s Play Games videos”

After hearing this, Shirakawa-san stared in wonder.

“Let’s Play videos? Is it different from playing games?”

“It’s videos of other people playing games”

“Do you.. enjoy that?”

Shirakawa-san asked with a puzzled face. Rather than making fun of me, she really seemed to not understand it.

“Ye-yeah. It’s fun to watch, like, someone who’s more skilled than you, or watch someone who plays while making entertaining talk”

“Aah, I think I understand it a little! When in a game arcade I also watch the amazing people playing. It’s fun, right”

As expected of Shirakawa-san’s communication ability. Even though it’s a subject totally not her field, she’s able to relate to it just like that. I’m a simple guy, and just that much already makes me happy.

“Th-that’s how I feel. If that person so skilled and a good talker, it becomes so interesting I just keep watching”

“Heeh~ that Let’s Play? So, is there like, someone you like in particular?”

“Yeah, a guy named KEN. He’s an ex-pro gamer and absurdly good, you see”

“Mm-hmm”

Because Shirakawa-san was listening to me earnestly, words were overflowing out of me like some kind of switch had been pressed.

“What’s so amazing about KEN is that he’s good at so many different games, you see. Even though he’s an ex-pro gamer in a shooting game, he’s also good at building games, and even also good at games like werewolf type game”

“Werewolf….?”

Because Shirakawa-san was puzzled, I immediately explained to her.

“What’s called a werewolf game is a game about a werewolf who pretends to be a human, and hidden amongst the humans…. It’s a game about finding the liars. It’s originally a board game where at the beginning, the players are given a card randomly. Written on the card is the official position they’d take…. for example a werewolf, or a fortune teller who can find the werewolf, or just an ordinary villager. If you become the werewolf, you must not tell other people about it, and have to act like an ordinary villager. If you seem to be the werewolf, they’ll vote for you and execute you, you see. So, what’s amazing about KEN is that he doesn’t rely on things like game theory or mainstream strategies, and of course he follows the system rule, but other than that, he’s totally a free thinker, and thinks of the best way to do things with his own head, and convinces others to play along with him. And that’s not an easy thing to do, you see. You’ll understand it when you play it yourself, but your head will be so full of things you’ll have to do, that you don’t pay attention to the strategy, I should say. Ah, the thing you have to do is to lie if you’re a werewolf, however there’s feelings of guilt, so it’s quite….”

There, I suddenly realized. I talked too much on my own. It’s just like at the bubble drink store. Remembering what I reflected back then, at least I was able to stop it somewhat earlier.

“Ah, sorry…. You don’t quite understand it, right?”

“Nnnn”

Shirakawa-san showed a vague smile.

“I want to actually see it, the Let’s Play videos that Ryuuto is watching. Then maybe I’ll understand it. Can you show me?”

“Of…. of course!”

Thus we left the pet shop, sat on a bench for resting purposes inside the building, and started watching KEN’s videos.

“Wah, Wow amazing! This person, is the person talking right now shooting?”

“Yeah that’s right”

“Isn’t he super good at this! This game looks fun too”

“Well actually, when I tried do it myself I couldn’t do it that well, you see”

“Is that so? He makes it look so easy, though”

“That’s why KEN is so amazing”

“I see!”

While we were talking about that, I thought a lot about it, and chose KEN’s videos that would be interesting even for a first-time viewer and browsed them with Shirakawa-san.

And then, it was after that when I was sending Shirakawa-san off until home.

“Ryuuto knows a lot, doesn’t he”

On the way, Shirakawa-san suddenly spoke.

“The person from the videos earlier, he was saying a lot of terms, right? You remember all of that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, well…. but, those terms are not that difficult, you know. ‘Cheater’ is a cheat…. So that means a player who cheats, and ‘ghosting’ is the type of cheating itself”

“Fuun….? But, it’s difficult for me. Ryuuto is just amazing”

“Thanks. But, because it’s something I’m interested in, I could remember it. I mean, Shirakawa-san, you know lots of fashion terms, don’t you. For example, like those open-shouldered clothes you always wear….”

“Ah, ‘off the shoulder’?”

“And you know, that jam-like sticky lipstick thing….”

“You mean ‘tint lip’?”

“Yeah, that’s right. You explained it to me when we were shopping, but I couldn’t remember anything about it. I think it’s because I don’t have any interest in women’s fashion…. So no matter how long we’ve been dating, I think it’s fine for each of us to have hobbies that don’t interest the other”

“Eh?”

However, Shirakawa-san raised a voice that sounded reluctant.

“But you know, Ryuuto did try to understand me, right? Like about the bubble drinks stores, you looked it up more than I did, too”

“About that, it’s because bubble drink was great, okay. If I thought it tasted bad, I wouldn’t have cared enough to look it up to that extent”

“But you know, that’s why at least a little, I also wanna try to understand you. Things Ryuuto likes, I also wanna understand it”

When Shirakawa-san said that while puffing up her cheeks, my heart fluttered like a maiden.

“Thank you”

To think that I’d be able to hear that Shirakawa-san say that to me, I’m the luckiest person in the world.

“That feeling alone is more than enough for me. Just watching videos that I like together with Shirakawa-san made me really happy”

When our eyes met, although she smiled, it’s as if she’s been caught up by my smile.

“Nn….”

Even after that until we reached her home, she somehow had a long face.

And the next day.

“Ryuutoo!”

In the morning, when I entered the classroom, Shirakawa-san who’s already at school came flying at me.

“What’s the matter?”

“Hey, KEN’s Cheating Series’ videos, did you watch those? That’s so fun to watch! I got so curious what’d happen next I ended up watching it until after three o’clock~!”

“Eh….”

KEN was a professional YouTuber who made a living only out of his videos, so in order to balance the risk, he made many different types of videos. What Shirakawa-san called a “Cheating Series” was Let’s Play videos of romance visual novels about confronting the girlfriend of her suspicious act with evidence of cheating.

“Those videos, it’s posted quite a long time ago, you know. You did well finding it”

When I told her this in surprise, Shirakawa-san smiled proudly.

“I went back, and looked for a game that I even can understand. And that was so hard~! KEN made too many videos!”

“Yeah, he posts four or five videos a day after all”

“Waah~ That’s even more hard work!”

“It’s his job after all”

I said that with a smile, and Shirakawa-san too smiled while saying ”I see”.

“It sounds nice~! That’s really a nice life. I also wanna be like a YouTuber who talks about cosmetics they like”

“If it’s Shirakawa-san, I think you can really do it”

“And then, I bet I’d get zero views~”

“Don’t worry, because I’ll go watch it for a thousand times or so”

“Eh, that means you’re gonna watch it a lot, Ryuuto”

As I watched the smiling Shirakawa-san saying  “I’m happy!”, I was happy too and felt my chest starting to get hot. I was so overcome with emotions I felt like I was on the verge of tears.

Shirakawa-san has found, among the vast amount of videos that KEN made, Let’s Play Games videos that she herself likes and got hooked into it. The “Cheating Series” is no longer being made so Shirakawa-san’s KEN Craze will probably be over in a few days.

However, being able to talk to Shirakawa-san about KEN like this makes me so happy it feels like a dream.

What should I do.

Day and after day, I fall for Shirakawa-san more and more.

At the same time, I was driven by the feeling of wanting to touch her, and it made my chest tightened.

I truly felt like I couldn’t wait for our date on the weekend.

So the following Sunday, I went to the zoo with Shirakawa-san.

“Oh gosh! Owl’s neck’s freaky! Isn’t it gonna break!?”

Shirakawa-san suddenly became very excited when she saw an owl rotating its neck 180 degrees near the entrance.

“Let’s see some pandas! Pandas! Uwaah~! Looks like they’re super popular!”

She made a fuss over the line to the pandas.

“….Pandas, they’re somewhat slightly dirty, aren’t they~. Also aren’t they huge? I thought it wasn’t a baby….”

The pandas we actually saw were different than expected, so her excitement fell a bit.

“Waa~ the tigers so cute! Hey, don’t they look like cats after all!? Rather, that pattern looks super pretty! I think I wanna wear a dress like that!”

Sticking to the bengal tigers’ cage, she gave her own unique impression.

“I knew I should’ve worn something with an animal pattern today! They may think I’m one of them and we’ll get along! I would’ve worn it if it’s fall~”

She was reflecting on her own attire as if totally regretting it.

Shirakawa-san’s fashion today too was the same as usual, it’s full throttle gal-like. She wore the usual open-shoulders top, with a pair of heavily damaged denim shorts, and a synthetic leather rucksack with long shoulder straps. Her footwear was still heeled, however thanks to the denim and rucksack, it made the overall impression casual, so she might’ve thought the TPO4 of a zoo in her own way.

And like that, we went around seeing animals for a little over an hour. Eventually, I started to get hungry.

Today, we met up at A Station at eleven o’clock, and now it’s already noon past one o’clock. It was Sunday and there were a lot of people, so the places where you could eat lunch were still crowded with visitors having lunch.

“What do you want to eat, Shirakawa-san? Looks like the food they sell on the menu is different in each area, though….”

When I asked her, Shrakawa-san let out an “Eh?”, and averted her eyes.

“Nn?”

Shirakawa-san looked at me again, and cast her eyes down again.

“What’s wrong? Are you still not hungry?”

“Well….”

Shirakawa-san didn’t answer clearly and made her body look smaller as if embarrassed, fidgeting in silence. This was not like her usual reaction, so question marks kept piling up in my head.

“Errr…. So, do you still want to look around seeing animals? We’ve already seen most of the east area, so the west area….”

“Hey…. Umm, listen!”

Then, Shirakawa-san finally spoke up. Her face was slightly red.

“Hmm? What is it?”

When I asked her, Shirakawa-san got even redder and nervously started to talk.

“Umm…. I was reeeeeeaaally unsure if I should give it to you or not, but since I already woke up early and did my best, even if just a little…. I hope you’d take it”

“Eh?”

“That’s why!”

As she said this, Shirakawa-san frantically dropped the rucksack she’s carrying, and took out something from the inside.

“Here! ”A lunch I made!

“Eh…. Eeehh!?”

I don’t know what happened.

A lunch!?

Made by Shirakawa-san!?

I looked at what was presented to me and it surely was a lunch box. The inorganic white plastic box was simple and not very Shirakawa-san-like. She probably borrowed one from her family.

“Shirakawa-san made this!? This lunch!?”

Due to too much of a shock, I unconsciously asked her back in a loud voice.

“Yep….”

Shirakawa-san replied in a fading voice, her cheeks flushed and she cast her eyes down.

“Ryuuto, you did say something like me with a part-time job at a cake shop, and you also seem to like that kind of thing, so…. I’ve never cooked or anything like that, I also thought of stopping but…. when I imagined Ryuuto might happily take it, I kinda…. felt like making one”

“Shirakawa-san….”

I looked at Shirakawa-san again.

Her light-colored long curled hair, and also her long and glittery nails are the complete opposite of her homely image. From the looks of it, she’s probably not particularly good at cooking.

And to think that Shirakawa-san made lunch for me….

I’m so happy I’m scared.

“It-it’s okay if you don’t want it, okay!? I’ll have it all myself!”

When I had a hard time accepting the lunch box offered to me, Shirakawa-san’s face contorted and on the verge of crying. With a flushed face, she furrowed her brows deeply and tried to lower down the lunch box

“No, I’ll take it!. Thank you, Shirakawa-san”

I panickedly told her, and accepted the lunch box.

Since we didn’t have to buy lunch anymore, we went to a nearby rest area and ate our lunch there. It’s outdoors, but with a little roof and lots of simple chairs and tables.

“Seriously, don’t get your hopes up, okay….? I’ve, never made lunch by myself before in my life”

Shirakawa-san shyly told me that, but the more she said it, the more my expectation exploded and it had the opposite effect. Rather, no matter what kind of lunch it is, I don’t care.

Shirakawa-san’s first self-made lunch…. A lunch that right now I have the privilege of to eat, which none of her ex-boyfriend could eat.

I was so excited my hands trembled as I opened the lid.

“Let’s see….”

With a solemn state of mind, I opened the lid and it’s time to meet.

The lunch showed itself, and the complete form of the lunch was.

“Oooh….?”

An omurice. The whole surface was covered with a yellow thin egg, so there’s no doubt.

However, that yellow was torn in several places, and the red-colored chicken rice could be seen on the bottom and in some places it was burned brown. The broccolis and cherry tomatoes as the garnish received the pressure of the unbalanced omurice, and were painfully crushed in the corner.

This lunch was not the obvious bad cooking, like with a burnt black croquette, but a realistic, and slightly-poorly made lunch by someone who’s not used to it but did their best in a hurry.

It’s bad enough that my love for Shirakawa-san was about to pierce the heaven because of her courage.

“Eh, no way!? It’s super unbalanced! Eh~…. When I made it it’s a little better than that, okay!?”

When she looked at the content inside, Shirakawa-san was flustered.

“It’s okay, really. Then it’s time to eat”

Then, it was when I was about to sink the spoon into the omurice.

My phone vibrated twice randomly, and because I was curious, I took it out from my pocket and looked at the screen.


Nikoru

Did you eat the lunch properly?

If you leave anything behind I’ll hit you, you hear


“Eeek….!”

It was a LINE from Yamana-san.

“What’s wrong?”

Seeing my stiffened face, Shirakawa-san innocently peeked at the screen.

“Ah! It’s from Nikoru”

I opened my eyes wide and stared at the pop-up that was displayed.

“Did you talk about the lunch to Yamana-san?”

“How should I put it.. this morning, she called me many times to wake me up. I was gonna make lunch, so I definitely wanted to get up early…. My parent, always sleeps on weekends, and grandma is on a trip with her hula dancing friends, so that’s why”

“Eh, what about an alarm clock to wake you up?”

“Isn’t it impossible to wake up from that? I’d stop it in a flash, and go back to sleep. If it’s Nikoru, she’ll keep talking to me until I wake up”

“….”

Shirakawa-san is really amazing. If it’s me, rather than dragging up other people to a superply personal matter like waking me up, I’d choose to sleep with an alarm clock wrapped on my stomach like dynamite.

“Is Yamana-san strong in the morning?”

“Nnnnn. She worked part-time until late yesterday, so she was like ‘That’s a pain in the ass! I don’t care!’ and got so angry”

I see….. That anger, led to this LINE message, huh

“Rather, you’ve been sending LINE to Nikoru, I see”

Shirakawa-san spoke while blinking her eyes.

Ah, same as last time, I thought.

It’s the same slightly bothered face that she showed when she asked me about being with Yamana-san at the fast food restaurant.

“Yeah…. Umm, when I heard about your birthday, Yamana-san shared it with me. If I want to ask anything about Shirakawa-san, she told me to just send a LINE. I really haven’t had any message from her since then”

It’s somewhat like making an excuse, but since Shirakawa-san didn’t seem to be jealous, I said it in a half-assed tone.

“Fuun, I see!”

Sure enough, Shirakawa-san immediately returned to her usual mood.

Immediately after that, she looked down and muttered in a whisper.

“I guess.. I probably like Ryuuto more than I think….”

“What is it?”

“Nnnn, it’s nothing!”

Thus, I finally started eating lunch.

The important thing was the taste, and it wasn’t nowhere near as dangerous as I was prepared for.

“Yeah, delicious!”

Though I said that, it wasn’t a lie, and it tasted like a very ordinary omurice made at home.

Rather, even if it’s a very bad lunch at the level where the sugar and salt were mixed up, it’s like a three-star restaurant class to me.

It’s a homemade lunch made by Shirakawa-san whom I longed for after all.

“Really!? Yay!”

Shirakawa-san was as innocent and happy as a small child.

“And it’s my first time making it, I may be a genius! Maybe I’ll become a chef in the future~”

“About that, didn’t you want to be a YouTuber?”

“Nnnn, there’s so many things I wanna be it’s troubling!”

Today, Shirakawa-san smiled a lot. Although she’s originally a cheerful girl, the amount of time she smiled when we were together was more than when we were at the beginning.

I wonder if.. she likes me more than before?

If that’s the case, is just a little bit of skinship, a-okay….?

Whenever I think of Shirakawa-san as cute, I want to touch her and it’s troubling. Even though at the beginning I was happy just being together with her, it looks like I’ve become greedy before I knew it.

After lunch we walked around to see animals for another hour or so, finished circling around the zoo, and then we left.

It’s about time.

The main objective of today, “When I go for a boat ride with Shirakawa-san, at the moment her feet are wobbly when getting on and off, I’d take the hand held out towards me instinctively”, and with that, let the mission begin.

To do that, I have to successfully invite Shirakawa-san for a boat ride.

While hiding my inner excitement, I walked side-by-side with Shirakawa-san on the street outside of the zoo.

The west side of the zoo was adjacent to Ueno Park’s Shinobazu Pond, and when you left the gate from there, you’d inevitably walk along the pond.

“It’s really a big pond~!”

Looking at the direction of the pond, Shirakawa-san raised her voice.

“It really is”

Today’s weather was good, so even if it’s already afternoon before three o’clock, there’s still plenty of boats out. Many of those boats we saw were swan boats, but I’ve already confirmed beforehand that there’re also normal boats.

“Ah!”

Shirakawa-san then pointed towards the pond.

“So there’s also boats! Looks like it’ll feel good!”

“….Want to get on one?”

It’s too good of a chance that has come so I got nervous, and my voice sounded a little high-pitched.

“Yep, I wanna get on one!”

Shirakawa-san replied in high spirits. And her eyes were sparkling happily.

“I think I haven’t been on a boat ride since elementary school! Do we have to row!?”

“No, I’ll row”

“Eh, but everyone on the boat has to row, right?”

“That’s canoeing then!”

“Eeh~!?”

While laughing at Shirakawa-san’s innocent talk, we headed towards the pier where the boats were moored in line.

Apparently, there’s a system where you’d have to buy a ticket from the ticket machine and head towards the boarding area at the end of the pier.

“Ah, but doesn’t riding a boat feel hot?”

Because Shirakwa-san told me that, I stopped trying to go for a normal boat, and bought a ticket for a cycle boat with a roof. It’s a type of boat that moved when you cycled the pedal with your feet like a bicycle, and could be called a swan boat but with the swan bow removed.

“We can ride for 30 minutes? Sounds like fun!”

Shirakawa-san’s voice bounced as she headed for the boat where the attendance guided her.

“Watch your step….”

In footwears with an approximated 10 centimeters heel, she tried to get onto the boat.

“Waah….!”

It was at the time when I tried to give a helping hand when her feet were unsteady.

“Wah! It’s really a nice view!”

Shirakawa-san immediately regained her balance and the next thing I knew, she made it safely onto the boat.

“….Yeah, you’re right….”

Perhaps, the reason for the defeat just now was because I let Shirakawa-san get on the boat first. A person, when their feet become unsteady, usually move their hands out in front of their body, so if I got on the boat first, I might’ve been able to support her in a natural way.

“….”

Calm down, there’s also the chance when we get off.

I remind myself of that and kept my cool.

“What’s wrong, Ryuuto?”

As soon as I started pedalling, Shirakawa-san spoke to me. I let out an “Eh?”, and looked next to my side.

“About what?”

Inside of the boat was small. When I saw her too-beautiful-face from a distance where our shoulders were touching, I got even more nervous and started to sweat.

I’m, trying to hold the hand of such a cute girl, am I.

….Can I really do it?

But, if she refuses to even hold hands, my wish of her saying “I wanna have sex” to me in the future is pretty slim.

Thinking about this makes me even more nervous.

“Because you’ve been somewhat absentminded. Are you tired?”

“Eh, no….”

She’ll think I’m being strange, so let’s just be honest. The thing about me planning to hold her hand after this is a secret, though.

“….When I’m looking at Shirakawa-san, I got blanked out because you’re just too cute….”

Shirakawa-san let out an “eh”, and stared at me as I said that while suppressing my embarrassment. Her cheeks blushed immediately.

“You dummy”

The expression of her squinting embarrassingly was also cute, I wish I could’ve taken a photo of it.

“Ah!”

It was then, Shirakwa-san took out her phone from her rucksack’s pocket.

“I’ll take a photo!”

“Eh!? O-okay”

I was surprised that I thought she’s reading my mind.

Speaking of gals, I had the image of them taking lots of selfies, but Shirakawa-san wasn’t that much of a selfie demon. When we’re together, she practically never took selfies, so until now we’ve never had taken a photo of us together in our date before.

“Ah, it looks good”

Shirakawa-san started the camera app and checked the angle.

“Just little closer”

As she said this, Shirakawa-san leaned closer to me. From her long curled hair, a flora or fruity-like smell started to drift and tickle my nose. It’s a mix of the mature perfume she always used with an indescribable feminine smell.

“C’mon, look at the camera!”

Shirakawa-san laughed and told me as I got nervous and completely looked in a different direction.

“Kay, here we go”

At that moment, Shirakawa-san slightly placed her head on my shoulder.

“….!?”

In the next moment, the shutter button was pressed.

“Ah, it looks good!”

On the screen Shirakawa-san showed me was the photographed face of me on the verge of getting stiff due to the surprise.

“This photo, wanna put it as a lock screen?”

Shirakawa-san looked at me with upturned eyes and smiled mischievously.

“Eeh…. that’s, as expected…. quite embarrassing….”

I told her falteringly with a red face, and Shirakawa-san let out a “I know, right~” then smiled.

“Then, I guess I’ll make it as the homescreen background”

She pressed the “Settings” while saying this, and quickly navigating it.

“Ah, it’s good, isn’t it?”

I was once again attacked by embarrassment when she showed me the homescreen with lined-up app icons on top of a photo of us.

“How about Ryuuto, too?”

She asked me like she was fawning, then I replied “I got it” with a pounding heart. Shirakawa-san smiled happily when I showed her the image she sent through LINE as a wallpaper.

“Fufu, looks like we have another matching thing”

That smile was so dazzling, and it wasn’t just because of the afternoon sunlight’s reflection off of the water’s surface.

Inside this narrow boat, I feel closer to Shirakawa-san than usual…. I wish we can stay like this forever, that’s what I thought.

However, time passed cruelly and thirty minutes went by in a flash.

I regretfully returned to the pier and parked the boat. I got off from the boat first and waited for Shirakawa-san to stand up and get off.

That’s right.

This time, in order to hold her hand.

“Whoops!”

And yet, Shirakawa-san nimbly stood up, and landed on the ground with no sign of her feet getting wobbly.

“….”

Contrary to the time when embarking, disembarking was an act of getting off from an unstable place to a stable place. If you had a good sense of balance, you wouldn’t need any help.

Mission Failed.

“The boat ride was really fun! It felt so good~”

“You’re right….”

Shirakwa-san was in a good mood, however I felt grief like those of defeated soldiers.

“What do we do now?”

“You’re right….”

“Going home?”

“Nnnn…. well”

The time was still not four o’clock. Unable to give up, I vaguely shook my head.

I wanted to ride the boat again and start over, but I was anxious of being thought as strange for saying that.

“Do you want to take a little walk?”

That was the proposal I came up with after much deliberation.

I wonder if my face looks like I’m brooding too much over something.

At that moment, the expression on Shrakawa-san’s face changed.

“….Okay”

The smile disappeared from her well-featured face, and became slightly nervous..

For a while after that, we walked along the path by the pond in silence.

I like you, Shirakawa-san.

I think.. she also likes me too. I mean, she’s been so good to me and continuing to date me.

But, she still hasn’t told “I wanna have sex” to me.

When I think about it, it makes me timid. And things like a direct “let’s hold hands”, I can’t say it at all.

However, I want to touch her.

For me, to “like” a girl equals to wanting to touch her.

But, “like” for Shirakawa-san doesn’t necessarily mean the same, it seems. That’s what I don’t understand and it hurts.

I don’t want to hurt her, but it’s getting harder and harder. It’s because my feelings of love for her keep getting bigger.

Even so, I don’t want to be like her ex-boyfriends and making her think that sex as an “obligation” to her boyfriend. That’s why I’m also cautious about skinship.

After all, Shirakawa-san is a very kind girl. Because if she notices my desire, she’d put her own feelings second and let me do anything I want.

“….Hey, Ryuuto”

When I was thinking about this, Shirakawa-san next to me suddenly stopped in her tracks.

“Nn?”

As I came back to myself, Shirakawa-san gave me a serious look.

“If you have something to say, say it”

“Eh….”

I wonder if she noticed. My ulterior motive.

But, to just tell her that is…. As I was thinking this, Shirakawa-san started to talk with a grim face.

“I.. understand, that kind of thing. ….They, because they all started to talk about how they feel on a normal date like this”

“Eh?”

I knitted my brows wondering what she’s talking about. Then, the sadness in Shirakawa-san’s expression increased.

“Actually, I don’t wanna break up. I also wanna get to know Ryuuto better…. and I liked you. Because I’m dumb, it maybe not conveyed to you but…. I kept liking you more and more, you know?”

“Eh, hold on a sec, what are we talking about?”

Apparently, what I was thinking and what Shirakawa-san was thinking are different. Realizing this, I stopped her from speaking.

“Eh?”

Shirakawa-san was confused.

“Aren’t we not talking about how you wanna break up with me?”

‘Eeeh!? It’s totally different!“

She said something I didn’t think a millimeter of, so I splendidly went into panic.

“Wh-why’re you thinking about that….!?”

“Because, you made a difficult face, and we just walked around aimlessly”

“Eh!? No, that was….”

Then, I remembered the words she said earlier.

──I.. understand, that kind of thing. ….They, because they all started to talk about how they feel on a normal date like this

I see, so that’s how it was, huh.

Until now, her ex-boyfriend started talking about breaking-up in that manner, huh.

Breaking up a relationship with someone is painful. And I got hurt to the point of it becoming a trauma just because I confessed to Kurose-san and got rejected. It’s just her not reciprocating my confession, but it felt like my entire self was being denied.

And an experience more painful than that…. the experience of suddenly being pushed away by an existence who once accepted you and was able to let you be yourself, Shirakawa-san has experienced it many times over already.

The reason why she urged me to talk first was, in order to make the wound as small as possible…. That might be her defensive instinct that made her do it, not wanting to get hurt anymore.

“I.. don’t have the intention to break up with Shirakawa-san at all”

I’m not like her ex-boyfriends.

That kind of thing, I don’t want to think about that all right now…. I don’t even want to think about the unlikely event that it happens, though.

If, one day, even if the time when this love would end comes one day.

That’s definitely, not going to be from me.

“What I was thinking just now was….”

What I had been pondering about since earlier seemed like a trivial and insignificant problem when I thought about her wounds.

“About wanting another boat ride….. that’s it”

At my words, Shirakawa-san made a dumbfounded face.

“….Eh, a boat ride? Is that it?”

“Yeah. We just rode on one earlier so I thought it’d be weird”

When I nodded my head, the smile returned on Shirakwa-san’s face.

“Do you like a boat ride that much? You’re so hopeless~, then let’s ride one again! It surely felt good, right~!”

Looking at that carefree smile filled me up with the feelings of love for her once again.

…..I’ve decided.

It’s a change of plan.

Let’s stop waiting for Shirakawa-san to reach out her hand.

I’ll gather my courage and reach out my hand.

I want to touch you. If she gives a difficult look, I’ll sincerely apologize and wait for the right moment.

It’s fine with that.

Thus, we returned to the boarding area for the boat ride. Then Shirakawa-san spoke to me in front of the ticket machine.

“If we’re gonna ride one again, wanna take a normal boat this time?”

“Sure, but are you okay with sunlight?”

“Yep, the sun’s already a little lower than before”

So I bought a ticket for a rowboat, and we headed to the pier.

The rowboat was structurally more unstable and shaky than the cycleboat earlier.

I got on the boat first, then held out my hand towards Shirakawa-san standing on the pier.

“If you’d like, you can hold onto me”

I couldn’t look her in the eyes because I was trying too hard to muster up what little courage I had left.

“….”

There’s a momentary pause, and then I anxiously looked up.

Over there was Shirakawa-san whose face reflected surprise and shyness.

“Umm, thanks….”

Shirakawa-san timidly held out her beautiful hand. The feelings of softness and dampness of warm skin touched my hand.

My chest gradually became hot when I gently grasped it.

Grasping my hand, Shirakawa-san got on the boat.

“….You’re so kind, Ryuuto”

As she said that in a small voice, Shirakawa-san’s eyes appeared to be somewhat moist.

But, we held hands only for a mere moment like that.

We let go of each other’s hands immediately and sat facing each other on the boat.

Before I had the time to soak in the afterglow of our first skinship, I had to grab the boorish oars, but it couldn’t be helped since we wouldn’t leave the shore If I didn’t row

After I started rowing, we were silent for a while.

It was a comfortable silence.

The greenery of the park was sprouting along the side of the pond, and high-rise buildings could be seen beyond it. The water was muddy so we couldn’t see fish, but there was a flock of ducks swimming in the distance.

As I was viewing the surrounding scenery, I rowed with the row with a feeling of satisfaction.

“….Maybe, it’s a good thing we chose this boat after all”

After a while, Shirakawa-san muttered a few words.

“Nn?”

I looked at her wondering what she meant, and then Shirakawa-san grinned at me.

“Because I got to hold hands with Ryuuto”

Her cheeks were slightly dyed in red.

“Eh….”

“Lately, I’ve been wanting to hold hands with Ryuuto a lot. That’s why I’ve been, like, trying to be closer than usual, but did you not notice?”

Now that she mentioned it, I remembered. About when she suddenly pulled my arm when we were going home together. About the time she put her head on my shoulder when we took a selfie inside the cycleboat.

So those were actually signs, huh.

“I thought it’d be bad, so I wasn’t able to tell you clearly. Wanting to hold hands when I’m still not sure I wanna have sex with you, it’s selfish, isn’t it. I mean, once touched, guys wanna go all the way, right?”

“Eh, no, such a thing is….”

No matter how much of a virgin I am, I don’t have such monstrous sexual desire that I can’t stop myself after just holding hands. Shirakawa-san’s combination of understanding and misunderstanding regarding men is cute but dangerous.

“….Me too, I’ve always wanted to hold hands with Shirakawa-san”

When I honestly confessed to her, Shirakawa-san raised her chin5 and looked over here.

“Serious?”

“Yep”

I nodded, and her face was saturated with a smile.

“Fuun, I see….”

That was, the kind of smile like she was planning something.

Then she stood up suddenly.

“Shirakawa-san? That’s dange….”

As I wondered what she was doing, she put her hands on the hull of the boat and just like that, she rocked the boat vigorously from side to side.

“Eh!?”

The boat was furiously shaking, and splashes rose from the water surface and got into the boat.

“Wha-what’s wrong!? That’s dangerous so stop….”

That’s when it happened.

Shirakawa-san suddenly leaned closer to me, her cute face coming closer.

With no time to prepare myself, something soft and warm touched my lips.

We kissed

By the time I realized that fact, our lips were already separated.

“You’re wide open!”

After sitting down again, Shirakawa-san said and laughed.

“….”

Forgetting to row the boat, I was dazed as if my soul was leaving my body.

A kiss with Shirakawa-san….

A kiss with Shirakawa-san….

Those words were the only things running inside my head.

Even though just holding hands was already a big deal, I had never thought we’d even kiss.

I can’t believe it.

My chest became hot, and my head was filled with Shirakawa-san.

Yeah, I truly, I truly love Shirakawa-san.

“…. We.. were thinking the same thing, weren’t we?”

Shirakawa-san smiled embarrassingly at me.

“I.. wanna get closer to Ryuuto. I wanna like Ryuuto. I wanna….”

After telling that to me with downcast eyes, she looked at me once again.

“Have a mutual ‘true like’ with Ryuuto”

When she said that, it hit me. I remembered the conversation on our first day of dating.

Shirakawa-san, I can’t believe she’s feeling that way about me….

As I was in the whirlwind of deep emotions, Shirakawa-san fanned her flushed cheeks with both hands and looked at me.

“Ah geez, it’s the first time I’ve kissed someone on my own, though. It’s embarrassing!

That angry-like pouty lips are cute.

After that, we looked into each other’s eyes and we both had a small smile on our faces.

When we reached the pier and I got off the boat, I held out my hand to Shirakawa-san again.

“If you would”

“Thanks”

Shirakawa-san shyly took my hand.

As I tried to separate our hands because she’s already got on the pier, she squeezed our connected hands tightly.

‘Shi-Shirakawa-san….?“

I got startled and looked at her, and found Shirakawa-san showing a mischievous smile.

“Just a little more, why don’t we stay like this?”

“Eh….. ye-yeah”

Thus, we began to walk through the park while holding hands.

“And you know, calling me with ‘Shirakawa-san’, can you please stop it?”

“Eh!?”

At the sudden suggestion, I looked at Shirakawa-san.

“Then, how should I call you….?”

Then She made a slightly pouty face.

“My name is Runa, right?”

“Ah….”

S-so that’s what she meant….

“Umm, uhh, then….”

I’ve never called a girl by their first name other than “◯◯-san”, so it took time to prepare myself.

I’ve never thought that the day, the day where I’d call that Shirakawa-san by her first name  moreover without any honorifics, would come.

“Ru, Rururu….”

Crap, not again.

It’s the same phenomenon like when I confessed to her, and I’m getting impatient.

“Ru-Ruru….”

It’s not like I’m calling for a fox. It’s a relief that Shirakawa-san is waiting for me without laughing.

“….Runa….”

Finally, I was able to say it properly. The first time I called Shirakawa-san by her first name felt strange like it’s my own voice, but not my own words.

“Whaaat is it?”

Shirakawa-san purposefully reacted exaggeratedly. She bent her body forwards and looked into my face with upturned eyes.

“Eh, well”

It’s not like I called her because I had purpose in mind so I was perplexed.

“A-are you not tired? Shirakawa-san. Want to sit somewhere?”

“I’m okay. And just now I was sitting on a boat”

“Ah….”

That’s right.

“Rather, it returned back to ‘Shirakawa-san’ again”

‘Ah, I’m so….!“

You’re totally hopeless, me….

As I was thinking that and started to feel depressed, “fufu” Shirakawa-san giggled.

“It’s fine. Until you can call me naturally, I’ll be waiting”

Then she squeezed my hand tightly as if to reassure me.

“Shirakawa-san….”

She’s really a lovely girl.

I want to quickly become a man who can match to such a charming girlfriend….

“….Ryuuto, your hand’s so cold”

Shirakawa-san casually told me as I was in deep emotions.

“Seriously? So-sorry, I was so nervous, so….”

I’ve been in the habit of apologizing to her since earlier, and Shirakawa-san smiled amusingly at me.

“It’s fine, it’s already summer. Then I’ll keep it warm for you”

After telling me that, her cheeks flushed a little and she made an embarrassed grin.

“Rather,  it’s somewhat embarrassing”

I was also red in the face, however Shirakawa-san looked to be truly embarrassed and looked up at the sky to cover it up.

“Ah…. If we had sex at the beginning, I’m sure I wouldn’t be so embearrased like this”

Shirakawa-san muttered as she looked up.

“Holding hands, and a kiss, it’s really full of embarrassment. Every time I feel like Ryuuto is close to me, I feel like I’m liking you more and more”

Then, she looked at me.

“It’s my first time you know, feeling like this”

With a sulky-like look on her face and blushed cheeks, she told me.

“Will you take responsibility?”

Surprised at what seemed like a proposal, I looked Shirakawa-san in the eye and strongly nodded.

“If you’re fine with me…. I-I’d be happy to”

Then Shirakawa-san softly smiled.

“Sheesh. It’s really embarrassing”

She put more strength on the held hand.

The breeze blowing from the pond refreshingly washed away the dusk air, which was showing signs of the gradually approaching midsummer.

Next to me, Shirakawa-san is there.

I’m not going to be her “ex-boyfriend”.

I want to cherish this girl.

I want to protect her smile forever.

Never again do I want her to look sad.

With that feeling in mind, I gently squeezed back her warm and delicate hand.



TL Notes:

^1. Uhuh, isn’t this what they’re trying to come up with earlier? Don’t ask me why. But I guess the one from earlier is more of an obvious one that he’s trying to hold hands with her? That’s my thought for this.

^2. Izakaya = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya

^3. NG = No Go

^4. TPO = Time, Place and Occasion

^5. Original line = “顎を撥ね上げて”. Probably just another way to say she raised her head.


Other changes:

1. On chapter 1: “After homeroom was over” to “In the homeroom before we returned”


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11 thoughts on “Chapter 5

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