I’m not sure if I’m still in the mood for a girlfriend, but everyone around me seems to be envious of the fact that I’ve begun dating Toiro Kurumi in several ways.
“I can’t believe he’s going out with Toiro…”
“A life with such a cute and adorable girl next door, I envy him…”
“Toiro-san…it has to be a lie. Please tell me it’s not true.”
“Oh my god, our Toiro-Chan is….”
I felt like more than half of them were in deep despair rather than envy. In the beginning, just by entering the classroom, I would receive harsh glances from my classmates left and right.
What’s with all the fuss? But that just goes to show how popular Toiro is. I still can’t believe it, though.
I didn’t hear these rumours and gossip directly, but rather from Sarugatani, who has many friends and is a well-informed person. At first, when I met him, he said something crude like,” You traitor…did you do it?” But after a bit of coaxing, he began to support me, saying, “You are the hope of all otaku.”
There is a so-called term known as “wind gossip.” In this day and age, gossip seems to travel faster than the wind. The story that Toiro and I had made up seemed to be spreading out more than we had intended.
However, something unexpected happened.
The rumours spread not only within the school but also to unexpected places.
“Hey, I heard you guys were dating.”
It was my sister, Hoshino Rina, who called out to me.
After school, in my room.
Toiro-chan and I were in the middle of a game, up to our usual childhood friend antics. I was sitting on my bed, clutching the controller, speculating the angle of the fan’s airflow as we were firing squid ink at each other.
“Hey, don’t just open the door without asking for permission!”
I shouted over the sound of the game, unable to take my eyes off the screen amid the battle.
“No, my brother brought his girlfriend here for the first time in his life. Look, I even brought her some food.”
“Ah? Her? -Ah, yeah, that’s right …”
As you all know, Toiro and I became a couple(temporary). As we were playing games together, we had completely reverted to our usual childhood friend relationship. It was a dangerous situation.
“Wait, hold on! How the hell do you know about that!”
I had no other option but to pause the game by pushing the start button on the controller, and I turned to face my sister, Hoshino.
“Ah, it’s pudding!”
Toiro, who was sitting next to me, let out a little cheer. Hoshino Rina, dressed in a sweatshirt, raised a plastic bag in response to her words. The pudding box is clearly visible through it.
“This is a new product from a nearby convenience store. It’s fantastic! Why don’t you give it a go, Toiro-chan?”
“Wow, thank you, Sei-chan.”
Like Toiro and I, Hoshino and Toiro have known each other for quite a while, and their pretty good friends. Toiro used to call her “big sister” and adored her so very much. Now they call each other “Toiro-chan” and “Sei-chan”.
“Let’s take a break.”
Toiro looked back at me and said,
“Here, there’s one for you too.”
When my sister presented the pudding to me, I hesitantly laid the controller on the bed. I promptly opened the dessert I received and brought it to my mouth with a spoon…..Yeah, it’s sweet.
Toiro was flapping her legs in delight. When Hoshino noticed this, she smiled and relaxed her cheeks. She then turned over to face me.
“How about it, Masaichi? Is it good?”
“Well, good for you! ….So are you guys really dating?”
Her eyes changed and scrutinized me as if to say something similar to “You ate it, didn’t you?”
“It’s not like we’re hiding anything. We’re together. It’s just been a while since then.”
“Really? So it’s true…….”
She began comparing myself and Toiro with her mouth half-open as if she was in a trance. She was somewhat sceptical at first, but she finally seemed convinced after hearing it come out of my mouth.
My sister proceeded to turn over and faced Toiro. After she adjusted her eyes, she began to speak.
“Why? What do you mean by that?”… Toiro looked vividly puzzled by what my sister was saying.
“Why would you choose such an unsophisticated man. His appearance has nothing to brag about; his personality is as damp as a moss mound found in the corner of the garden. Just look at him. Can’t you tell that there’s something wrong with him?”
“What do you mean by that! How could you say such terrible things to your own brother?”
“It’s because he’s my younger brother, I can say that. I’m a pitiful elder sister. As a manager, I’m utterly inept. If Toiro-chan had given him to me, I would have made him a better man for you. I’m sorry.”
My sister clasped hands together as she apologized to Toiro.
Toiro laughed and waved her hands, saying,
Well, it’s true that if you’re someone like Toiro, you could probably get a ‘boyfriend’ who is much better looking, brighter and more popular than me. Even I know that much, sadly. As my sister said, we have a “special relationship.”
“It’s all right, Sei-chan. Masaichi is someone I enjoy spending time with. I feel at home when I’m with him, and I’m glad to be there with him. Keep up the effort, Onee-chan.”
Toiro must be pretty attentive to others to say such a thing.
“Oh, wow. You say the cutest things, Toiro-chan. If you ask me to do something for you, I’ll do my best to support you. I’ll kick the crap out of anyone who says something you wouldn’t like.”
“Why would anyone say something she wouldn’t like to hear? On that note, I would like to know how you knew Toiro, and I were dating.”
“Hmm? That’s simple. You guys are the talk of the town. Toiro-chan, better known as Kiseki from the prestigious Meikoku junior high, found love. But the man strolling next to her is akin to a dull man with eyes resembling that of a dead fish, so people are wondering whether someone tricked you two into going out with each other.”
Hey, who’s this dull guy, I hear? Who’s the man who’s walking next to my girlfriend?
…..Yeah, that’s probably me. I can’t think of any other person walking next to Toiro. I’ve heard about this so often that I couldn’t help but try to escape from reality a little.
“No one has fooled me!”
“Understood, Toiro-Chan. The next time I hear someone say that about you, I’ll make sure to correct them. There’s no way a guy like this could ever fool you.”
That’s a terrible way to treat someone, no matter how much of a sissy or brother you are. When I made such a comment, Toiro chuckled. That helped to soothe the situation, but it was a matter that might have escalated into a fight between sisters and brothers.
Anyway, just how famous is Toiro? Not only in the school but also in the city, even in my sister’s territory. In addition to that, she even has a street name, Kiseki of Meikoku High.
“Please take care of me, Sei-Chan. Masaichi and I are in a proper relationship with each other.”
Toiro bowed her head as she said this.
For us to be a couple in disguise, we wouldn’t want any strange rumours about us circulating around. I followed suit and also gave my sister the same explanation.
“Okay, okay, your right. Leave that part to your sister. But it’s nice, a couple, huh. When was the last time I had a boyfriend?”
My sister placed her index finger on her chin and raised her eyes diagonally upward as if recalling something from her past.
I’m not interested in my sister’s love story. I was going to tell her to hurry up and leave so I could get back to my game.
“What high school were you in? Sei-Chan was also pretty famous right?”
So Toiro picked up the conversation.
“Yes, I remember that. But I was a senior at a different high school, so I don’t have any school memories. You know, the legend of the cherry tree, a staple of Meikoku High School. I wanted to have such a sweet and sour youth.”
“The legend of the cherry tree?”
I asked back.
“You don’t know about that? The legend of the cherry tree? All couples do it.”
I wondered if there was some kind of mysterious legends behind it. But the girl right next to me was also tilting her head and raised her eyebrows.
“Ah, you don’t know about it?”
“How long ago was that? Hasn’t it already been abandoned for a long time?”
I’m not sure about this, but even Toiro, who spends a lot of time with girls who appear to like discussing such topics, isn’t convinced. The legend has most likely vanished into thin air, never to be heard from again.
“Oh, is that so?……”
My sister said, looking vividly sad. Toiro then interjected.
“You said “years ago”, but how old are you now, Sei-Chan? You’re still in college, right? I guess it hasn’t been that long since you graduated.”
As soon as Toiro spoke the words, Hoshirina froze.
“Oh no, …….”
Apparently, she couldn’t explain it very well herself. I opened my mouth instead.
“It’s been seven years since you graduated from high school? Normally, you should have graduated from college three years ago, gotten a job, and moved out of the house a long time ago. But you’ll be here for a few more years.”
Toiro hurriedly covered her mouth with both her hands, saying, “Ah.”
She appeared to have touched something she shouldn’t have touched. My sister’s petrification increased as a result of the gesture.
“My sister is a bit of a klutz. She tries her best to graduate, but she couldn’t even turn in her assignments on time or get a passing grade on any of her tests. Therefore, every February or so, my sister apologizes to my mother, which is a tradition at my house.”
As payback for everything she said earlier about me, I’m going to expose everything about my sister.
“No…stop…please stop…Masaichi…that story haunts me till this day….”
Feeling guilty about causing her parents so much trouble, my sister is weak when it comes to college-related topics. There was no trace of the previous delinquent in her life. She is working hard this year to pay for her tuition by taking up a part-time job, but her parents want her to spend that time studying.
My sister, Hoshino Rina, a twenty-five-year-old fourth-year university student, who had looked so dashing when she walked into this room, had now shrunk down to a size of a gnat. It makes me wonder, what was she trying to achieve?
Well, whether the legend of the cherry tree exists or not, it doesn’t matter to us as we are in a tentative relationship, I thought idly.
☆ Pov of Toiro
――I wonder if Masaichi is thinking about it.
Near the school’s rear gate at the end of the corner, which runs around the back of the school building, lies a large cherry blossom tree.
I’ve heard that if you declare your love for each other under the tree, your love life will be prosperous for many years to come.
That is the “Legend of the Cherry Tree” passed down in Meikoku High School.
What Sei-Chan said was correct. If you think about it, it’s only logical that we who have just started school don’t know anything about it. In my heart, I apologize to her for taking advantage of her frailty as an everlasting college student…..
And now that I know that the legend was really true, I felt so excited.
――I wanted to try it out with Masaichi.
Since the day I was born, I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’m just like everyone else, as interested in love as they are.
I wonder, what do couples usually do with each other? Now that I’ve got a boyfriend, I wanted to try out all kinds of things together with Masaichi.
-For us to have a sense of what it means to be an actual couple.
But how would Masaichi react when he finds out I’m taking him to the famous location of the cherry tree? Will he be taken aback? Will he be irritated?
Feeling a little worried, I visited Masaichi’s seat during lunchtime.
――Do you want to go today?
After explaining the gist of the legend of the cherry tree, I held up my thumb and pointed in the direction of the rear gate.
Masaichi’s eyes blinked, “Oh, you’re going?” That’s how he reacted.
If we were real lovers, our exchanges would go something like this:
“Oh, you know, there’s a place I want to go today.”
“Uh, well, there’s this cherry tree on campus…….”
“Do..you mean..the one from the legend?”
What a sweet and sour exchange that would be.
I wish I had a cuter way of asking him out; I thought I’d give it a shot at first, but the embarrassment just killed me. In the end, I asked him out in a way similar to how an office worker would invite their co-worker out for a drink.
“We have to do these couple-like events! If my friends suddenly asked me, ‘Did you do it with your boyfriend?’ I wouldn’t even know what to say to them!”
Before Masaichi could say anything, I continued to speak. I was afraid that Masaichi would turn me down. I was aware that I was attempting to persuade him to go along with something which would inconvenience him, and I was scared to look into his eyes.
“…… I see. In that case, let’s go.”
In the end, Masaichi didn’t even complain about my explanation. He just agreed with me.
“Oh, thank you! See you after school~.”
――He’s really kind, isn’t he, Masaichi?
I narrowed my eyes and took a good look at his face. His bangs look depressed and stretched out, but you could see a gentle-looking face underneath it.
The first time I asked him to be my boyfriend(tentative), or when we tried to replicate what lovers would usually do with each other, I felt extremely nervous.
The other party was Masaichi, a dear friend of mine…… No, it’s because we grew up together.
I’ve never imagined doing something like a couple with him, and I have no idea what kind of atmosphere it will create. I was looking forward to it, but I was also worried. What if Masaichi rejects me? Even if our relationship is only temporary, what if he says he can’t treat his childhood friend as a lover?
Honestly, I felt really nervous about what I said just now.
To cover up my embarrassment, I made it look like I was under pressure from my friends. So I made my request to Masaichi as if I didn’t care. You may have thought I was a bit selfish, reckless and pretentious…….
That, however, may have been an unjustified worry.
I was so overjoyed that I agreed to see him after school, waved to him, and walked away from his seat.
In the evening, we came to a cherry blossom tree near the rear gate.
“…… Hey, Masaichi, you mean that one, don’t you?
“Yeah, probably …….”
Since it was called a “legend,” I imagined it had a magnificent trunk and flowers that bloomed out of season for some reason (like in some anime), but what I saw in front of me was a plain, ordinary-sized cherry tree.
“There’s only one cherry tree around here.”
Masaichi said to me as he looks around to make sure he’s not missing anything.
I pondered if that tree indeed provided the advantages that had made it a legend. I have my concerns, but because we are a ‘tentative’ couple, the act of completing this ceremonial rite together should be more significant than the outcome.
So we decided to get started, but we couldn’t get near enough to the tree, to begin with.
There were too many people around us.
“Yes, sir. Steady…Go!!”
A bunch of sprinting baseball players ran past in front of me. Before and after them, there was another set of runners wearing different club clothes.
The path was a jogging track that circled the school, and at this time of the day, when the club was in session, there was no end to the traffic.
A fence divides the cherry tree from the rest of the school, allowing students to see us on their way out of school. Two people, a man and a woman, standing under the tree would be way too conspicuous.
If it were just the two of us, it wouldn’t be a problem at all.
The cherry tree is a legendary spot for couples.
I’ve been to school and back many times, but this is the first time I’ve been to a place where I’m sure others would perceive us as lovers, and I feel a strange sensation welling up in my lower abdomen.
“……Next time those soccer players pass by, let’s go.”
I couldn’t stand still forever, so I told Masaichi that. About 30 seconds after Masaichi nodded his head, the soccer team’s uniforms passed our sight, and we stepped out.
I guess I’m getting self-conscious or something. There was no one around, but I felt as if someone was watching me from somewhere. I don’t know how many people know about the legend of the cherry blossom tree, but from an outsider’s point of view, Masaichi and I are a couple.
“Masaichi, why are you so concerned with your movements? Ah, are you nervous about being seen as a couple with me? Is this something that requires a lot of effort?”
In order to prevent Masaichi from noticing how nervous I am, I poked at him first.
“No, I’m not. I’m just not used to people paying attention to me in the first place.”
I wonder if that’s true. Aren’t you even a little bit nervous about this situation?
We soon reached the bottom of the tree as I went on, thinking about this.
“Okay, is this a good place?”
Is that all there is to it? We both remained silent, trying to recall the next step. We’ve come this far, but I feel like I need to take a break and rest….
The next step, I believe, is to talk about love?
And now we both looked at each other at the same time.
“We’re going to talk about love under the cherry tree, right?”
I asked to confirm.
“That’s right. We talk about love……”
On the other hand, Masaichi replied in a low voice, sounding vividly confused.
We both realized it. Or rather, why hadn’t we thought of that part first?
As a ‘fake’ couple, what should we say to each other regarding love….
“Hai! First to go is Masaichi!”
Similar to the way we played card games, I pointed at Masaichi to start first.
“What, me first?”
“Yep, as said in the rule book, it’s my boyfriend’s turn.”
“What kind of school legend has a rule book!?”
Masaichi was very kind. In the meantime, however, the number of passersby began to increase again.
“Look, it’s like we’re telling each other we love each other anyway!”
Not wanting to drag things out too long, I hurried Masaichi along.
“Toiro, that’s not fair!”
“Ohhhh? You don’t like it?”
“gah! Uh, I…ah, love.”
“It suddenly turned narrative!?”
Although we tried our best, We were both very nervous. To put it simply, we were in a daze.
As I was searching for words to say, Masaichi took a deep breath as if he had made up his mind on what to say.
――I love you.
He looked me straight in the eye as he opened his mouth.
These simple words rocked my eardrum membranes.
My heart thumped loudly, and I felt a tinge of numbness across my body. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
Of course, I knew it was all an act. But the way he conveyed his words in such a straightforward manner, along with the way he expressed his feelings, was just something I couldn’t believe for a moment.
Ohhh? What’s this? Masaichi looks pretty cool right now.
“Wow…I love you too.”
Riding on Masaichi’s momentum, I managed to say something too.
I’m so embarrassed. My face feels hot. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve said I like the opposite sex.
We successfully accomplished our mission and quickly left the place.
I took a deep breath as I moved swiftly to the far corner of the parked bicycle lot, where there were few people.
Well, I was surprised by that. I never thought that Masaichi would show me such a masculine side.
That’s when I turned my attention to Masaichi’s face.
“I’m curious if XI Eleven is the greatest. Their works are excellent, but what distinguishes them as the greatest is that they consistently improve with each new release. And, despite the numerous configurations, the opening seems the same. I feel like a satanist just listening to that. — I love you, I love you, I love you.”
What is saying !? All of a sudden, Masaichi started rambling on and on. I’m sure he’s talking about some RPG series in terms of numbering, but what the heck …….
“Why are you talking about this all of a sudden?”
When I said this, Masaichi smiled at me.
“In the legend of the cherry tree, we are supposed to profess our love for each other, right? However, there’s no restriction on which direction our love is supposed to be pointing in the rules. So, as I stood under the tree, I expressed my love towards my games.”
I’m sorry, what did you just say?
In other words, his prior statement of love was aimed at his games rather than at me? That’s why it seemed so genuine: he expressed his actual sentiments without any falsehoods or lies….
“I figured if I could think about it like that, I would be able to say it without any embarrassment at all…Hey, what’s up with you?”
Masaichi asked me this question. But I’m not sure what I should be looking like right now.
I turned my back on him and stepped into the classroom where I had left my backpack.
“Hey, are you mad at me?”
“I’m not angry!”
I shouted as I started to walk away.
I thought we were going to split the pain. That idiot Masaichi tricked me!
Damn, that guy…isn’t cool at all!