This summer vacation aboard a luxury cruise ship continued to be a valuable experience, and had already reached its halfway point.
The wallets of the students enjoying their remaining time to the fullest must be loosening up like never before. It may sound crazy to the students who were systematically working their way up, but there was nothing wrong with spending money on a short break. It would help refresh any accumulated fatigue, and at the same time, you would achieve a sense of euphoria and happiness. But that might sound like an excuse, since I was also using my meagre amount of private points.
I changed into my swimsuit and opened the door to see a large, empty pool. This luxury cruise ship had a large swimming pool facility that was open to everyone free of charge, but it was also equipped with another pool. You could call it a private pool, a pool that we could rent out and enjoy all to ourselves. It wasn cheap at 20,000 points per 60 minute interval, but the time you could spend alone with your closest friends was more than worth the money. Moreover, the number of people who could use it was up to 40 people at a time, so if an entire class rented it out, you could use it for only 500 points per head.
Because of this, the private pool was surprisingly popular with students and was almost always fully booked from 8am to 8pm when it was open. While it was difficult to swim freely in a large swimming pool packed with people, the private pool was spacious enough to do whatever you wanted and enjoy it with no trouble.
”Wow, its huge… ”
Akito spoke with a hint of excitement after showing up at the poolside a little later than me. It was the same size as the pool that was open to the public for free, but it looked so big that I wondered if the scale could somehow change by reserving it.
”Wheres Keisei? ”
”He said hed go to the bathroom first. The girls aren ready yet, are they? ”
There was no need to confirm that they wouldn be able to change as quickly as us boys. For some reason, Akito picked up a menu that was sitting next to a beach chair.
”Oh…Its more expensive than the other one. ”
For the private pool, drinks were far more expensive than for the free pool; in fact, they were almost double the price. It shouldn be that surprising when considering the number of orders that would be placed for this many people, but it was harsh. It meant that we would be relentlessly exploited here as well. The fact that bringing your own food and drink was prohibited was also well thought out.
Just then, the door to the changing room was opened slightly. We both looked back at the same time, but there was no sign of anyone coming out. Instead, the sound of voices reached my ears.
”Come on Airi, what are you doing? Hurry up and go. ”
”B-b-b-b-b-but, but! Its embarrassing Haruka-chan! ”
”Whats so embarrassing about it? Youve been posting all kinds of embarrassing pictures onto the internet so you should be fine, right? ”
”W-well its not like they were looking at me directly! ”
”For me, thats even more embarrassing. Come on, come on. ”
”Aah! Wait, wait! ”
Such an indescribable conversation was going on between Haruka and Airi.
”How to say it? Theres a certain invisible quality, right? ” Akito said something completely unexpected. ”What? ”
”I was just thinking, you think about stuff like that too, huh Akito. ”
”You know…Its natural for guys right? I mean, its not like I talk about it lightly on a daily basis like Ike and the others. You
e the same, aren you? ”
He faced me with a somewhat dumbfounded look in his eyes, and at the same time, there was an air that didn allow for any denial. I wasn trying to read the atmosphere, but I could tell that Akito was trying to be brave in his own way. It wasn a good idea to ignore him, so I decided to admit to it honestly.
”Well, I guess thats true. ”
Hearing my answer, Akito laughed a little as if he were relieved.
”If a girl hears, I know shell just say Im an idiot or something though. ”
Akito usually wore a calm poker face, but judging by how much he was talking, it was obvious that he was getting nervous. However, those two still seemed to be arguing and wouldn come out easily.
”Im so embarrassed! ”
”You know what?! I feel the same way! ”
”H-h…Haruka-chan, thats a very daring outfit isn it? ”
”Thats because you promised to wear this in front of everyone! ”
We were in something of a life or death situation, waiting for them to appear.
”Daring, she says. ”
”Sounds like it. ”
A sense of anticipation, accompanied by a feeling of embarrassment. Where should I look and what should I say when the girls come out?
”Impossible, its impossible! I-Im going to borrow something to cover myself with. ”
”No, you can ! Come on, don run away! ”
”Ugh, Im still embarrassed in this kind of swimsuit after all, Haruka-chan! ”
”You know that its the same for me too, right? I had no choice but to go along with you! ”
”I never asked you to do that! ”
We were waiting for them to come out, but it looked like the struggle would continue a little while longer.
”Hey, Ayanokōji. What do you think of Airi? ”
Akito had been looking towards the girls until now, but I realised he was now looking at me. I was sure he wasn just speaking randomly.
”As in? ”
I immediately understood what he was talking about, but I dared to feign ignorance.
”Mixed-gender groups can be a little complicated, right? Its not unusual for someone to end up liking someone else. ”
The question wasn difficult to answer, but…
”How about you? ”
When I asked back, Akito showed a somewhat troubled expression.
”Well, I guess so. ” After a few moments of silence, Akito spoke. ”Id be lying if I said I felt nothing like that whatsoever. ”
He answered in a way that acknowledged, not denied, the existence of such a possibility.
”But if it might destroy this group, Im not gonna push it. ”
He meant to leave those feelings smouldering in his heart. I couldn tell for sure if it was Haruka or Airi at this point, but… I wonder what the right answer would be here. Unlike math, it wasn always possible to get a definitive answer after trying to figure it out.
”Kiyotaka, you… ”
Just as Akito was about to say something, the half-opened door swung open and Airi came flying out in front of me. I made eye contact with Akito again after looking at where the shouting came from.
”P-pushing me like that…you
e awful Haruka-chan! ”
”Its because you wouldn hurry up and get out here. ”
Saying that, Haruka showed herself immediately after Airis arrival.
”O-oh, come on… ”
Akito looked shocked, but needless to say, I felt the same way. How could I put it? The two of them were wearing incredibly bold swimsuits. If this wasn a private pool, they would have attracted a lot of attention from both men and women.
Haruka immediately looked up and saw us. I somehow felt like it was a crime to stare at them, so, at the same time as Akito, I turned to look in the appropriate direction. However, as if something immediately caught his curiosity, Akito spoke up, keeping his gaze elsewhere.
”Airi gives off a very different impression, doesn she? ”
Id rather he didn bring me into this, but I guess Akito must also be in a tight situation.
”I guess. She gives off a much more innocent feeling. ”
”Thats it…that. ”
While we were describing our impressions of Airi, Haruka looked blatantly disappointed.
”Conventional. Mundane. ”
”Don say that. No, Im too surprised to get the words out. ”
I really hoped that Haruka would catch the part where my vocabulary was rapidly declining.
”…Im gonna go for a little swim. ”
Perhaps the two of them were too stimulating for him, as, after saying that, Akito turned his back on them and jumped into the pool without doing any preparation. With a splash, he swam through the empty pool alone. I knew what it was like to be hit with the feeling of wanting to run away. Because the private pool was an environment that we would rarely be able to experience, when faced with the destructive power of the two people in front of us, escape was no longer possible.
To get rid of all kinds of worries, swimming away like that was the correct decision. Having said that, if two guys were to suddenly put their all into swimming, the atmosphere would obviously turn strange. I guess Id just have to be the shield here and continue this confrontation.
What should I do…? Taking a look at the two of them, I could see that Airi was blushing uncomfortably. Seeing Airi like this, Haruka happily walked around to her back and grabbed her shoulders.
”Hey, hey, Kiyopon, hows the reborn Airi? ”
Saying that, she pushed Airi forward. The distance between us was so close that if we weren careful, wed end up touching each other skin-to-skin. Rather than that, it was like she actually was touching me. I retreated just enough for it to be unnoticeable and maintained a close distance.
Both of them were wearing swimsuits that exposed a lot of skin, so touching them easily was problematic behaviour. Unable to bear the situation, Airi opened her mouth to escape.
”I-I think Ill go swim in the pool too! ”
”Wait, Airi… ”
Haruka reached out her hand to try and catch her, but she failed to grab her arm in time. She then went to jump into the pool…or so I thought, but the way she held the stainless steel railing and gently entered the water was very Airi-esque.
”Damn it. Even though Im so embarrassed too… ”
That certainly would be the case. Aside from the emphasis on the breasts, the area of the swimsuits lower half was clearly small. Even though they were tied together tightly with string, I was anxious that something might happen to them.
”Just so you know, it was Airi who chose this ridiculous swimsuit, okay? ”
”I wasn going to get into it, but how did that happen? ”
Originally, Haruka wasn the kind of student who liked to show her skin in public. However, the amount of emphasis she was putting on her breasts and lower body wasn normal.
”How did it happen? How did it happen, hmm…? ” For a moment, she showed a troubled face, but then she began to explain, choosing her words carefully. ”Im not sure how to say it? Its a form of going along with Airi? ”
”What does that mean? ”
There were so many choices, I couldn even begin to understand.
”It means that shes desperately trying to change. And thats the same for me. I can believe Im saying this, but…theres a part of me that stands out a little more than others, right? ” She said it in a muddled way, but it was without a doubt referring to that which I couldn look at. ”I know I shouldn care, but the way people look at me makes me uncomfortable. ”
I could understand her distress, but from a male psychological perspective, ignoring it was extremely difficult. It was inevitable that our eyes would find themselves being drawn to them.
”I chose a slightly daring bathing suit for her to encourage her, and she replied that she would wear it if I wore one too. ”
That was a good reply. I could easily imagine Haruka refusing to wear a flashy swimsuit. If Haruka refused to wear it, she could say back to her that she wouldn either.
”I can let her stumble during the first step of the Airi remodelling project. Its called willpower. ” Now that shed accepted the conditions that Airi herself set, Airi couldn escape either. ”Besides, even if Airi and I can wear something like this in the open pool over there, if its here… ”
It seemed that because it was with 3 boys that they were close with, they managed to make it happen. Even so, it was easy even for a guy to imagine that there was quite a bit of shame involved.
”…You wanna see? ” Haruka asked, looking embarrassed, or rather, hiding her disgust.
”Well, even if Ive been told not to look, I have to admit there are some difficulties. ”
In the first place, they were in my line of sight when I was talking to her so there was no way around it. The only way to avoid seeing them was by looking directly above or below, or by turning my back.
”I see. I think I know the difference between a man and a woman, but I don know anything about psychology. ”
The difference in curiosity about breasts, hips and lower abdomen wasn something that men and women could understand. No, there was no way to know because each individual person had their own preferences; it wasn just separated by men and women.
”Huh? By the way, wheres Yukimuu? ”
”Looks like hes going to be a little while longer. ”
I don know if the stomach-ache was lingering, but he didn seem to be coming out at all.
Perhaps not that interested in checking, Harukas mind seemed to be elsewhere. The conversation stopped for a moment, and a brief silence fell.
”…Ah, no, I can stop thinking about it. ”
”Im sorry. Im trying to be careful not to look. ”
If you couldn help but look at the other persons face while talking to them, they would inevitably come into view.
”Thats not what I mean. You really haven done anything wrong, Kiyopon. I know Im too self-conscious to begin with. I know that you
e not looking because you like it. ”
Eh, no…its not like I don like what I see. Ill keep that part to myself.
”When something stands out it attracts attention. Its the same with anything, right? Its just, when I think its me, I can help but feel bad. ”
In Harukas case, it wasn just the boys gaze. Even if it was a same-sex gathering, she wouldn welcome attention being drawn to her breasts.
”Im sorry, I think its going to take me a little more time to calm down, ” she continued.
”It doesn really matter. If you think its impossible, you can just go back and get changed. ”
”I can do that. As long as Airi is giving it her best, I don want to break. ”
She called it the Airi remodelling project, didn she? I could tell she was thinking about it.
”Lets change the subject. It may be a little late, but it seems you were just about safe in the uninhabited island exam. ”
I hadn been able to get together with the Ayanokōji group for the past few days, so Haruka mentioned the topic to me rather late. It was a completely unrelated topic, which was probably a good thing right now.
”Well, we were just the same, so its not something to laugh about. ”
”To be honest, it was pretty tough. I fought as hard as I could and that was the result. My bad. ”
”Its not bad at all. I mean, Im a little relieved. ”
Exhaling slightly, Haruka watched Airi, who was clumsily trying to swim.
”Relieved? After those terrible results? ”
”I mean, there were rumours that you were a jerk because of that math problem, Kiyopon. Won this help everything calm down a little? You didn like the weird pressure you were under, right? ”
Apparently, she was thinking about my future.
”As I thought, you
e more like a saint than the other boys, Kiyopon. ”
”What did you see that made you think that? ”
I was doubtful because I thought she was overestimating me. I had just as much sexual desire and interest in the opposite sex as anyone else.
”Things like your facial expressions, your gaze…I feel like its less of an issue with you than other boys. ”
I didn know what to say about that. I was afraid Id get a lot of flack for showing anything like that here. I was also grateful that another guy was playing the role of a panicked person. It must have a synergistic effect.
As soon as Keisei, who had finished changing late, showed up, he let out a surprised voice. It was clear to the eye that this wasn his reaction to seeing the rented private pool. He mustve seen the daring figure of Haruka beside me.
Perhaps to maintain a sense of normalcy, Haruka greeted Keisei with a silly face and voice.
He fixed his glasses, which had almost fallen off, and looked over towards her. I guess this meant that Keisei, who usually spent most of his time studying, was a fine boy. The fact that all the guys uniformly reacted and tried to escape in the same way showed the nature of this group. If it were a type like Ryūen or Kōenji, the reaction would probably be very different.
”Well then…I think Ill go swim a bit too. ”
He jumped into the pool to escape, joining Akito, who was swimming vigorously. Airi, who couldn swim well and thus let her feet touch the bottom of the pool, waved at Haruka.
”Come over too, Haruka-chan~ It feels good~! ”
”Okay, okay, Ill go. Give me a second. ”
Saying that she couldn help it, she started to do her exercises next to me.
”I get the feeling youve become closer since fighting through the uninhabited island exam together. ”
”Well, thats true, isn it? Weve shared a lot of things from top to bottom. ”
”Waah! Thats a bit embarrassing so don say it! ”
Airi, who was waiting at the edge of the pool watching us, hurriedly made a splashing sound. Top? Bottom? They were common keywords, but also very meaningful.
”I don know, Airi is essentially helpless, but I can leave her alone. Kind of like a best friend or little sister? ”
A statement that was unthinkable when we first met. And that wasn something limited to just Haruka. It was the same for Keisei, and, even if there were no major changes, it was also the same for Akito.
After that, I took turns playing in the pool with my group of friends, enjoying myself to the fullest.
After playing two-on-two water volleyball, we were now in the middle of first to five, one-on-one matches. First up was a battle between Keisiei and Airi, which Keisei won 5-2. Then Akito and I fought, and Akito won by 5 points to 3. Airi, who lacked physical strength, was sat down by the side of the pool to rest, probably tired after just one match. Seeing this, I called out to her.
”You looked like you were having a great time. ”
”Ah, Kiyotaka-kun. Yeah, its really fun. Though I wasn much of an opponent at all… ”
For some reason she tried to stand up, so I stopped her and sat down beside her instead.
”To be honest Im still surprised. That you had the courage to do something like this, Airi. ”
”Thats…yeah. I thought Id take the plunge…Though Im still terribly embarrassed about it. ”
”Why did you decide to be brave? ”
She couldn have decided to do something like this on a whim.
”During the uninhabited island exam, we were always with our group for 24 hours every day, right? So Haruka-chan and I spoke about all sorts of things. About when we were little, about middle school. And then after coming to this school, about how we started getting along. ”
If you were together for long periods of time, small talk just wasn going to cut it. With that being the case, it was no wonder that they delved into the deeper stuff. Probably because of the intense time they spent together, the two of them mustve come to understand each other like theyd been best friends from way back.
”I thought maybe I can change now…It might be the only time… ”
e not just talking about looks, right? ”
”Yeah. I can say it clearly yet, but… Ive started to think that I should change, that I have to change. Its not good enough for me to be bad at both studying and sports. ”
Even though her cheeks were flushed and she felt embarrassed, Airi expressed her determination.
”So the start is your appearance. ”
”Haruka-chan scolded me, saying that its not good to be deliberately inconspicuous. ”
Airi didn like to stand out because of her personality. That was why she lived her life keeping her hairstyle modest and wearing unnecessary fake glasses. As for posture, she often rounded her back and kept her head low. She couldn improve her studies or sports abilities overnight, but she could fix her appearance.
As Airi gazed at the pool, she saw that in the new match, the ball had been smashed into the water and Akito had scored a point against Haruka. This gave Akito a lead of 3 points to 1.
”Its too late…I guess. ”
After telling me everything, Airi looked up at me anxiously.
”No, its not too late. ” I wanted to praise her honestly for making that decision. ”Im rooting for you. ”
”T-thank you, Kiyotaka-kun. Ill try my best. ”
”Ah, yeah, yeah, I forgot to tell you earlier but Airis image change is still a secret, okay? Well be unveiling it to everyone when the second semester starts. ”
It would probably be better to do it in a classroom with all the students present. At any rate, if it was going to make her nervous, the fewer times, the better.
”So what did you think, Yukimuu? When you saw Airi. ”
Haruka, who was serving, stopped what she was doing and spoke to Keisei, who was watching the match.
”D-don ask me. ”
”We won know unless we ask, will we? Let us hear your unreserved opinion. ”
After being told that, Keisei looked directly at Airi and observed every inch of her body. Naturally embarrassed, Airi tried to run away.
”You can run away, Airi. ”
Haruka did her best to hold Airi down as she growled and flapped her legs. And after completing his observation, Keiseis evaluation was…
”…Its…not bad, is it? I mean, no, its totally attractive… ”
Keisei, who didn usually show much interest in girls, replied, his body tense.
”Oh, if Yukimuu reacts like that, then Im sure its perfect! ”
Haruka, as pleased as if it were her, jumped high into the air at that moment. She then slammed her serve towards Akito, who had been watching Airi after having his attention caught.
”One point! With that its two points to three! ”
”Thats not fair, Haruka. ”
”Its your fault for gawking at girls, Miyacchi. Don let your guard down, carelessness is ones greatest enemy. ”
”Don be ridiculous. But…how can a girl change so much just by taking off her glasses and changing her hairstyle a little? ”
”It means the original material was already top-notch. Didn you know that much? ”
”Even if you say that… ”
Akito and Keisei looked at each other and nodded at the same time.
”Oh dear. Well, its because you guys are like this that Im comfortable hanging out with you. ”
Akito shook off his worries and concentrated on his own serve. With the game resumed, Airi let out a sigh of relief.
”When it comes to studying, how do I improve? Or rather, how do I get smarter I wonder… ”
Although Airi and the others prepare when tests come around, they don study from the ground up like Horikita and Sudō do. That part was essential when it came to raising your academic level.
Keisei overheard something related to studying, so began to explain in front of us.
”The first step is to find out what you can and can do, isn it? Beginning with the 1st year of elementary school, we all start running side by side. But gradually our strengths and weaknesses when studying start to emerge. Do you know why? ”
”Individuals have different abilities regarding learning and absorbing content, as well as different levels of concentration. There are those who can stand it for even one minute, and there are those that can get through an hour of class by resourcefully controlling their concentration. That alone will start to make a difference in your ability to learn, but how much you study outside of class is also a big factor. ”
”Thats…yeah. Its true that the kids who went to cram school were smart. ”
Although it was obvious, Airi nodded her head as if she were convinced.
The ball bounced off Harukas attempt to catch it and he won the 5th point. The result was a 5 points to 2 win in favour of Akito.
”Alright. With that I guess its my win. ”
”Bummer. But I was a little curious about what those two were talking about and couldn concentrate, so thats why I lost. ”
So with that analysis and excuse, Haruka came up to the pool side.
”Why don you teach her how to study, Kiyopon? ”
Hearing the flow of the conversation, Haruka came up with an idea.
”Sorry, but Im not very good at teaching. Besides, theres a teaching specialist nearby, right? ”
To shift the gaze away from me, I turned to Keisei as if to urge him on.
”Well…if Airi says its okay, then I don mind. ”
”No, but Yukimuu, you know, I was thinking you could take care of me and Akito from now on. Wouldn it be hard to teach all of us if we added Airi, whos at a different level? ”
”Uh, that means Im an idiot, right?…Ugh. ”
”Ah, thats not it! Thats not what I meant! ”
”No, you know, thats the only way to take what you just said, Haruka. ”
Unable to defend her, Akito muttered under his breath.
”Im just, you know…Ah jeez, Im very sorry, I was out of line! ”
She bowed deeply to Airi, and at the same time, the two lumps became bigger…And don look…If I do, my concentration will be uprooted and taken away.
After that, there was a lot of laughter and the atmosphere became more relaxed.
”Then its time for the Airi and Keisei revenge match. ”
”Ehh? I won win no matter how many times I try~! ”
”You don need to worry, Ill join you as a helper. ”
”W-wait, Akito. Im at an overwhelming disadvantage then! ”
Even while complaining, Keisei went into the pool without hesitation. He was very serious about it.
”I-Ill try my best. ”
Airi, who had gained a reliable companion in Akito, clenched her fists slightly.
Haruka and I decided to watch the novel two-on-one battle from the poolside.
”Hey, can I ask you something? ”
Shortly after the match started, Haruka spoke to me with her gaze fixed on the competition.
”I hope its not my imagination, but aren you a little cold towards Airi, Kiyopon? ”
”I don mean to be. ”
”But you couldve taught her one-on-one. You can do that much, can you? ”
If I had to choose between being able and not being able, then I would say I could do it without any problems.
”Thats kinda unfair, don you think? For Airi. ”
”Im just trying to be fair to everybody. ”
”Ive never really favoured anyone except for pretence. ”
”…Does that mean youd be as fair to your best friend as your girlfriend? ”
”Thats right. ”
”Isn that a little strange? Its like the distance between us is too far. Ill take this opportunity to say, right from the start youve been watching us while keeping your distance, right Kiyopon? ”
Apparently, that idea had gotten through to Haruka.
”Ive never seen you smile or anything. ”
Saying that, she reached out with her right arm and pinched my left cheek. She played with it, pulling it with some intensity.
”I wish we could at least make you smile, Kiyopon. ”
”Its not like Im not smiling on purpose though. ”
She removed her fingertips from the cheek she had been pinching and crossed her arms in displeasure.
”There are more reasons that I can tell you directly. The distance between Airi and I was too close from the beginning. ”
”Whats that supposed to mean? ”
”I think its not me, but the environment surrounding her that is making her grow. ”
”The environment surrounding her? ”
”Theres you, theres Akito, and theres Keisei. Growing surrounded by her best friends is the most important factor for Airi. In fact, Airi is about to undergo a major change thanks to you, Haruka. ”
”I think the one most important to Airi is you though, Kiyopon. ”
”If she were the type who thrives on romantic entanglements, that mightve been a good idea. ”
”You told me that you were aware of Airis feelings once before Kiyopon, but, how can I put this? What you
e saying is a little harsh, don you think? ”
She looked at me with complicated eyes, as if she didn know how to express herself.
”Since our first year, Airi has been thinking about me in no small way. That makes me happy. Its just… ”
She looked at me with anxiously, as if she were a girl waiting for a reply to her confession. Airis love. It was an undeniable fact that she was her best friend and was praying for her to succeed.
”What Airi needs right now are friends that she can trust. ”
”But, but you know what? It might be good if there were also a romantic element. She might be able to work harder. ”
”Indeed, there could be some synergy. ”
But the trouble was, love wasn something that you could have for more than one person at a time.
Basically, if the seat was occupied by one person, if you wanted to bring in a second person, youd have to take action to cut off the first. Of course, it wasn impossible to do it with two or three people at the same time if you were good at it, but Id say it wasn suitable in the closed environment of this school and the demerits should you get exposed were far greater. I stood up from the poolside.
”In the near future, Airi will undergo a bit of a psychological shock. At that time, Haruka, I need you more than anyone to be there by her side to encourage and cheer her up. ”
”Whats that? What do you mean? ”
”Sorry, but I can answer that right now. ”
Airi is the least valuable person in the class. Academic ability, physical ability and other factors. Looking at her comprehensively, that was the only way to judge it. This was not only true for the OAA, but it was also my own personal opinion.
However, depending on Airis willingness to change from here on out, she will surely grow, albeit slowly. Maybe in six months, maybe in a year, at that time, she might be able to climb out from the bottom of the class.
Translators ramblings: For some reason Kinugasa uses the word beach a couple times in this part, saying beach-side and calling it beach volleyball, despite the fact that they are on a cruise ship? I decided to change those because somehow I doubt the ship has a sandy beach on it… Im not sure if he had a change of heart regarding the setting after he started writing or something given that there is also a moment where Haruka supposedly restrains Airi despite being in the middle of a water volleyball match in the pool.
Our time in the pool came to an end in a flash and we started to get changed.
The system didn allow for extensions because there was a fixed amount of time for employees to clean the area before the next reservation. The three of us quickly showered, changed our clothes and left the private pool. The girls couldn be seen, probably because it took a fair bit of effort for them to get changed, unlike for us boys.
”Looks like the girls aren done yet. ”
Since we hadn discussed what to do afterwards, we decided to wait for them to come out.
I suddenly felt a pair of eyes watching me, and it was revealed to be Nanase. I set a new record today, having met Nanase every day aboard this ship.
”Nanase helped me find a partner for the special partner exam. She also helped me several times during the uninhabited island exam. ”
”Really? So you
e a pretty amazing girl then, huh? ”
Akito nodded with admiration and raised his hand lightly to greet Nanase. Keisei followed suit.
Could it be that Nanase was the next reservation for the private pool? Thats what Id thought, but…
”I just happened to be passing by. ”
As if to deny it, Nanase said it was just a coincidence.
”I see. ”
”I don want to bother you, so with that, Ill take my leave. ”
In this area, the only place where students could play was the private pool. In fact, Nanase walked away, but I still couldn figure out why she showed up here in the first place. No… At this point, it would be too optimistic to dismiss this as a mere coincidence. Nanase seemed to have some grasp of my actions and was checking on me every step of the way. However, I didn feel any kind of malice in it. If that was the case, then what was her objective?
Nakaizumi and Suzuki passed by in front of the three of us. Seeing this, the other two didn seem to have noticed anything unusual.
”Whats wrong, Ayanokōji? Did those two do something wrong? ”
”No…I was just wondering where they were going. ”
”Ah, youve got a point. Theres not really anything up ahead, is there? Maybe they
e lost? ”
There were no special facilities beyond this point. It wasn impossible that they were lost, though. To begin with, people didn visit this level for any purpose other than the private pool. Just like Nanase, they were walking around in places I wouldn consider normal. Speaking of which, I saw Nanase, Nakaizumi and Suzuki on the deck near the bow yesterday.
”But Airis in trouble. She seems to have a lot of formidable enemies. ”
”Whats that? ”
When Akito muttered from behind me, Keisei butted in.
”No, its nothing. ”
Shortly after Nanase left, the two girls finished getting dressed and came out.
”That was fun, wasn it Haruka-chan? ”
”I guess so. Playing in the pool isn so bad if its with close friends. ”
The two girls seemed to be completely satisfied and were smiling the whole time, even after theyd
finished changing. I was sure Haruka was still anxious about what I said earlier, but she wasn showing it.
When we had all gathered and were about to leave the private pool, the person who seemed to be the next reservation showed up.
”Oh, next is Ike huh?
”Y-yeah. Thats right. This was the only time I could make a reservation. ”
e not alone, right? You with Sudō and the others? ”
Akito looked behind Ike curiously, but couldn see anyone.
”Ah~ no, um… ”
Ike choked on his words and became restless, but he caught something out of the corner of his eye.
”Sorry to keep you waiting! ”
”What a rare combination, Shinohara and Ike hanging out together. Where are the others? ”
Neither Akito nor Keisei thought anything was out of the ordinary and asked the question indifferently. Of course, Haruka and Airi, though they were surprised, seemed to sense it immediately and pushed the boys backs.
”Come on, come on, we don need to worry about that, well be on our way. ”
”Huh? Whats this all of a sudden? ”
”S-Satsuki, lets go. ”
He took Shinoharas hand as if running away, and the two of them went to the reception desk of the private pool. I guess they didn have time to loaf around in this place because the time was fixed.
He called her by her first name and they walked hand in hand as they disappeared into their respective changing rooms. Seeing that, Akito finally noticed something strange about the two of them.
”They…eh, since when? ”
”What is it? What are you talking about? ”
Keisei still didn understand, but he was immediately given a straightforward explanation by Haruka.
”It means they started dating ”
”What are you talking about? Ike and Shinohara are like oil and water, why would those two date each other? ”
He denied with a serious expression that people who didn like each other would ever date each other.
e smart, Yukimuu, but…you
e an idiot. ”
”They mightve disliked each other at first, but I think theyve probably been closing the distance, little by little. I get the feeling theyve become more conscious of each other lately. ”
Airi nodded her head in understanding, perhaps because girls were better at this kind of romance stuff.
”Yeah, I guess. But Im surprised. I can believe that they actually started going out. ”
”S-so thats how it is. Ike and Shinohara are? …No, as I thought, I can understand it. ”
Keisei, having grasped the situation, looked shocked and searched for the backs of the two people who were no longer visible.
Translators ramblings: These last few parts had moments where members of the Ayanokōji group called him Ayanokōji instead of Kiyotaka despite their first name only rule. Thats how it was in the raw, so its not a mistake on my part; maybe Kinugasa made a mistake, maybe its because hes a little bit distant compared to the rest. I don know.
”Nope~ scary~ ”
Not long after wed finished hanging out and returned to our guest cabin, Miyamoto came back whilst mumbling to himself.
”Did something happen? ”
”Its nothing like that. That Tokitō guy had a hold of Katsuragis collar by the nearby restroom. Ah, of course its that Tokitō whos always so quick to start fighting. Well, it was quite a mess. ”
”You didn try to stop them? Hiroya can be pretty scary when he gets mad, you know? ”
Miyamoto looked a little annoyed at Akito, whod made it sound like hed abandoned Katsuragi.
”Im not gonna stop them. Its none of my business and Id get in trouble if I got involved. ”
Katsuragi and Tokitō Hiroya. Both were students from Ryūens class.
”Katsuragi has only just moved from Class A. Considering that they were enemies until not too long ago, its no wonder that trouble is brewing. Right, Kiyotaka? ”
”That may be so. ”
”Im a little worried, why don we go check on them? ”
”Leave it be, Miyake. An enemy class has a dispute, so relatively speaking, its a win-win for us, isn it? Its not surprising that they don get along since Katsuragi was originally a Class A student. ”
”But…aren we all second-years? ”
”If we carelessly get involved, we might end up as collateral damage. And what will we do if we get noticed by Ryūen? ”
Akito seemed to have complaints regarding Miyamotos arguments, but he listened to him all the same. It wasn inconceivable that the situation could take a turn for the worse if Akito joined them.
Listening to the conversation between the two of them, I stood up silently.
”Just leave it alone. ”
”No, I think remaining calm is the right thing to do regarding the Katsuragi situation. Im just going to the store because Im thirsty. ”