The Line That Separates Them. — Line 24

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Naivety and Desperation.

The night had relinquished and the day preceding the start of the Haru High School sports day had arrived. The entirety of the campus was in an energetic mood, but the crown for the most enthusiastic bunch was taken by the third-year students. It was natural for them to be stirred, for they were in their final year and would no longer be able to act as carefree and wild once they enter society as an adult.

Usually, schools around the country don’t allow their seniormost students to participate in activities such as cultural festivals, sports days, or school trips. However, Haru High School is a bit different in that regard as it gives an option to the third-year students. They were free to participate in these events, or they could just ignore them if they wanted to focus on their studies.

The school recognized that the last year of high school is a very important time for students, both academically and emotionally. As such, while the school didn’t necessarily encourage the seniors to participate in these events, it surely never forbade them from doing so.

The whole of today was dedicated to practice for the impending sports festival. It was a fact that the school hadn’t given us much time to prepare or choose participants, but it was the school’s way of testing their students’ capabilities. Also, since this format had been followed for years, it was the duty of first-year students to ask the seniors for information.

In Haru High School, due to the sheer number of students, each school year had its exclusive campus, cafeteria, staff rooms, etcetera, and this applied to the sports facilities as well. We had everything from a football field to a running track, all available to us for our private use. It may sound amazing, but such a huge student body comes with its own set of problems.

For example, the sports day of all three years will not be held ‘together’, instead, the whole school would meet in the morning for a combined assembly, and the students would go to their respective year’s sports facility to compete soon after.

The school had provided all the sports equipment and such without batting an eye. Each team was allowed to utilize the time and resources however they wished. It seemed that a message from Class E arrived at a boy’s phone, and he announced that they will be heading out in fifteen minutes. We were supposed to head over to locations assigned to our sport, or so our homeroom teacher said before leaving, but it was clear as day that the students would do as they wished without following any rules. Such was student autonomy.

“Miya, let’s go change.”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

Though I am a bit hesitant to admit it, my prowess in the athletic field could be considered to be non-existent. Ever since I was young, I had been following in my brother’s footsteps and focused all my attention on academics. The most I did was a bit of yoga and light exercises to maintain my physique. As such, I could do nothing to contribute during this event. The event I chose to participate in was the balancing race, and since it was a considerably unpopular event with less point value, no competent students should participate in it.

The events holding the most point values were ball games such as volleyball, basketball, and soccer. In all three of these events, the winning team would earn a hundred points, the second place would earn seventy, and the third-place would earn forty points. In comparison, the winner balancing race would get fifteen points while the second and third would receive ten and five points respectively. It was the same for the three-legged race that Takumi and Minami were participating in, but the psychological value it held was enormous. Minami was unusually proactive when she registered Takumi and herself for the event. It was quite shocking for all of us to see someone as timid and meek as Minami to act excited, but it was obvious that Takumi didn’t mind because he didn’t reject her even once.

Well, though it bothers me somewhat, I should not let it hinder me. Minami is my rival in love, and since she has made an effort to advance her relationship with Takumi, I should learn from it and strive to do the same, if not better.

After all of us changed into our P.E uniforms, which was a blue tracksuit for both the genders, we departed from our class and headed for the field. As our class walked through the corridors of the first floor, we came across another class moving about in a fidgety manner. From what I was able to make out from the conversations among the students belonging to our two classes, it seems that they’re quite uncomfortable with this whole concept of the inter-class competition. Not that they had a problem with sports festival day, but they dreaded the fact that the winners would be provided with a better overall school trip compared to the losers.

In my opinion, the classes coming in second and third places shouldn’t be that worried as their school trip, while not being as lavish as that of the winners’, would still be considered quite comfortable from a student’s standpoint.

“Miya, they’re from Class C.”

It seemed as though Chiaki saw through me as she said that to me with a bitter smile.

“Meaning?”

“Ah, you may not know this since you aren’t that involved with sports and stuff, but Class C and their partners, Class G, are considerably lacking in athletic people.”

“Is that why they are so gloomy?”

“Yep. If I were to make a vague assumption, Class E would be at the top with Class I, Class D, and us, slightly behind them. According to the student forums, since we are partnered up with Class E, it is highly likely that we will take the first-place finish, making the atmosphere in the unconfident classes quite gloomy.”

“That’s sad… What are the forums saying about the other classes?”

I am not too into forums because inappropriate content is at large as most of those who post and comment in the forums are the boys from higher classes, and the topics of their conversations sometimes travel in a not-so-women-friendly direction, making it a rather infrequent place for maidens.

“Hmm… Class I and Class D, considered to be pretty good, are partnered up with Class B and Class F respectively, both of which are mediocre at best. As such, people are betting on them to fight for the second place, but since Kashiwagi-san is in Class D, they are more popular, not that it matters.”

“So the rest of the classes… Class C, Class G, Class H, and Class J… If I am not wrong, are down in the dumps, is that it?”

“Exactly. The fourth place’s treatment isn’t much better than the last place’s, so their morale is destroyed right off the bat… It wouldn’t happen in any normal school, since all it would cost them would be some medals and certificates… Miya, the stakes are too high, making them desperate.”

“I get that. Even during the cultural festival, the prizes were nothing short of extravagant. We had to invest ourselves and were allowed to reap the profit ourselves, and at the end of the day, the school blatantly declared a winner and a loser by giving them different treatments. We got a pat on the back, while Class E, that is in the same year as us, received cash, furniture, coupons, and whatnot.”

“Yeah. The worst, or one could argue the best part about our system is, nobody really knows what the school will do. The seniors don’t know either. They just said that top 5 in cultural festival rankings would get rewards, that’s it. This time too, when I asked a friend’s sibling, all they said was that the winning classes would have a wonderful trip. It’s annoying, but it livens things up.”

Chiaki said with a mischievous smile. In my opinion, while it does create a bad atmosphere among students, the school isn’t doing anything excessive. The school is just urging students to be independent and fight for what they desire.

“The winners will flex while the losers will cry, and that’s something that will never change the rest of our lives. At least the school is teaching us this when the stakes are relatively low.”

I said while bitterly smiling at the Class C students who were still blocking our path to the ground.

“Somebody’s gotta lose and that’s a fact. We’re being taught that, and it’s something that those with broad perspective can appreciate, while the losers can’t.”

“What about the winners?”

“I’d say they’re somewhere in between… Appreciative because they won, and scared because there is always the next time. Guilty because they snatched someone else’s happiness, and ecstatic because they gained happiness through their own effort.”

“Society is weird.”

“Haha~ It sure is.”

On the other side, it seems that the students from Class C finally budged.

“I don’t want to be known as someone who laughs at others’ misfortune, but they look kinda amusing right now.”

Chiaki said while brushing across the shoulders of some of the Class C girls. The desperation and resentment in their eyes were clear as day. It wasn’t hostility or hate tough, their eyes were that of children that had their favorite toy snatched. Innocent, yet foul.

“Forget it. We shouldn’t be complacent. If we weren’t paired up with Class E, we wouldn’t be in such high spirits either. Similarly, if Class E was paired up with a class like Class C, even if they have an overwhelming advantage because of their students’ individual prowess, it wouldn’t be impossible to beat them.”

“Miya, that’s really rude towards Class C, but I understand where you are coming from.”

“Fufufu~ Yeah, we’ll do our best to win. Even though we can’t do much to gain points ourselves, we can support and cheer on the others at least.”

“You mean you can support Kawashima-kun, right? Well, your support is sure to hype anyone up, so do give your all into cheering.”

Chiaki said with a chuckle and pinched my cheek.

“Yes! I will do my best!”

I said as I clenched my fists and raised them in the air.

Chiaki and I, with some of our classmates, arrived at the track club’s area. The number of our students had been reduced significantly as most had already headed off to their designated locations.

The track we are currently at isn’t the one that the first-year members of track and field club operate on, but the one a bit far away that was left deserted most of the time. The participants of actual running events like marathon, relay race, sprint, etcetera, have decided to practice on the main field. I even heard that some of the club members decided to visit the second-year campus and practice with them on their track.

This field isn’t maintained regularly and could prove dangerous for people running at high speeds. As such, those of us participating in miscellaneous events like the scavenger hunt, balancing race, three-legged race, etcetera, gathered here to create an impromptu gathering of unathletic people.

“Miya-chan, why are you here.” “Did Miya-san not participate in volleyball or tennis?” “Waah~ It’s Kobayashi-san!”

These were the type of comments I was bombarded with as I attempted to peacefully move through the track to find a good place to chill with Chiaki.

I-I get it, okay!? I am not good at sports!

“Yes, yes, it’s alright.”

I was being comforted by Chiaki as she shielded me from all that’s wrong in the world.

We walked to an edge of the field where no students were roaming about and settled down after placing our handkerchiefs on the dusty ground. With nothing else to do, we just stared into the distance for some time before taking out our phones. An hour or so passed with none of us speaking anything of importance, we both just continued to fiddle with our phones.

“Chi-chan, are you not going to practice for the scavenger hunt?”

I suddenly spoke up while browsing through the internet, looking for something to do.

“Huh? What do you expect me to do? Randomly run around looking for dumb stuff? That’d make me look like an idiot.”

“N-no, I meant the running part.”

“The running itself is like fifty-meters. It all comes down to luck. If I get an easy item, I win. I lose if I get something difficult to procure. Simple as that.”

“T-That so.”

“What about you? I can get you a spoon and lemon, why not practice?”

“No, I don’t think one day of practice will have much effect. Moreover, I am pretty confident in my sense of balance, I used to skate a lot back in primary school. I think I’ll do good if I just do a trial run at home. It’d be embarrassing to run with a spoon in my mouth here.”

“You do you I guess. Then since both of us have nothing to do, why don’t we go to the roof or something?”

“No, the roof will be really cold. I am freezing here, and the temperature isn’t even in the single digits. I’ll die on the roof.”

“How about we go to class?”

“No, the teachers are making rounds, they are kicking out anyone who is trying to skip.”

“Ugh, what about our soccer field? I heard the five teams are doing a knockout tournament.”

“Knockout tournament?”

“Yeah. The team to score a goal first wins… Golden goal… Or something like that? The team that wins stays in. Sounds interesting, and you get to see your dear Kawashima-kun.”

“Takumi? Oh, yeah, he is on the football team as well, right? Yeah, sounds like a great idea! The football field is quite a distance away, so maybe we can run there. It’ll be practice. Let’s go! Run!”

I said while standing up and dusting my handkerchief.

“You little…”

Chiaki sounded a little annoyed, but her voice trailed off at the end as if she was shocked.

“What is it?”

“Look… Isn’t that Kawashima-kun?”

“Huh!? What!? Where!?”

“There… And he is strolling arm-in-arm with Minami…”

I turned my head in the direction Chiaki was pointing at, and what I perceived was, as I would define it, an abomination.


“Senpai~ Please check these documents for me~!”

“Which ones are they?”

“It’s the Brazilian branch, it seems there is some trouble.”

“Okay, bring them here.”

“Anjou-san! Didn’t you borrow the stapler? Can you staple these documents for me?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Pass them onto Riku-san afterward.”

“Okay.”

“Boss, Mr. Andre from Oracle: Exotica, the one in America, just called in. It seems that the international summit will be held in our hotel. Leaders of various nations will be staying so the American government wants to book the whole place for three weeks, what should we do?”

An employee abruptly called out to me as I was looking over some documents at my table with Takara drinking hot chocolate by my side.

“Yeah, I heard about it. I’ve already authorized the booking, Kyoko will be contacting them soon. The President invited Miyashita-san and me to tag along, it seems that the main agenda is economy this time around. But it seems that both of us haven’t given a clear answer yet.”

I looked over at Takara who was fiddling with her phone with one hand, and holding a steaming cup with another.

“I don’t know what happened, okay? He was very keen on going at first, but it seems some important work came up, so he says he’ll have to send a proxy.”

“Hmm… Proxy, is it? So he didn’t straight-up refuse?”

“Boss, why don’t we send a proxy as well? If we refuse now, it’ll be bad for our reputation. Miyashita-san can refuse since he is a public figure and he already has contacts in most of the governments attending the summit, but we can’t do the same. We have to send someone.”

“Cough~ Kyoko, wanna go?”

I asked while leaning back into the chair, tilting it back to a comfortable angle.

“Three weeks!? Hell no! Last time I went to America with you, it was such a pain in the ass, I don’t wanna go through that again.”

“What if it’s an order?”

“Ugh, you wouldn’t. Takumi, you can’t be this cruel, right?”

Kyoko, who was standing at the opposite end of the room, looked at me in sheer desperation.

“Fine, fine, Riku will take this one for the team. Some of you accompany her as well, five, at least. And make sure not to embarrass us in front of leaders of the world.”

I said as I waved my hands. It was already half-past ten, and since all the work for today had been taken care of, I decided to call it a day.

“Takara, let’s go. Is your family sending a car to pick you up?”

“Dad contacted me a while ago, he told me to message him when I need the car to come around.”

“Fine. Tell him that you’re ready to leave.”

“Okay.”

Takara smiled and fiddled with her phone for a moment before picking up her bag and putting on her jacket. I had Akane take my bag with her when she went home so all I had to take with me was my school jacket.

“Let’s go, Onii-sama.”

“Yes.”

“Bye, Boss.”

“See you tomorrow, Sir.”

“Have a safe journey, Kawashima-sama.”

“See ya guys. Keep up the good work. Christmas is right around the corner, I may spare you a bonus if I am in a good mood.”

I left them with these parting words, only to hear an intense commotion behind me as I boarded the elevator with Takara. Kyoko had some work to take care of concerning the summit, so she decided to stay, resentfully. I messaged Akane a while ago to pick me up, so she should be here soon as well.

As we exited the building through a rather isolated passage, I could make out a black limousine in the distance and a man who seemed to be a butler standing by, ready to receive Takara.

I escorted her to the car, and after she handed her bag to the butler, she turned around and smiled at me.

“Onii-sama, make sure to sleep once you get home, okay? We have to practice tomorrow and go all-out the day after. I am aware of your capabilities more than anybody else, but still, do rest well.”

I placed my hand on Takara’s head and caressed her silky hair.

“Of course. How can I say no to any of my lady’s commands?”

“Fufufu~ You said it yourself, Onii-sama.”

Takara lightly hugged me before boarding the car. The car took off without making much noise. Takara kept waving at me from the back seat until she couldn’t see my profile.

Several minutes later, Akane arrived with one of our cars and we made our way home as well.

It was the next morning, and as soon as the homeroom ended and Nakano-sensei left the classroom, the class descended into a turmoil.

“So, wadaya wanna do?”

“Should we go and spectate as the girls practice?”

“It would be boring~ They’re wearing tracksuits because of the cold. I wish the sports festival would’ve been conducted back in summer.”

“Yeah, then we’d be able to enjoy it in all its glory.”

This was the conversation happening on one side of the classroom where all the boys had gathered. I retained my seat with the excuse that I was sleepy and was saving energy for the actual practice, so I could hear the conversations happening on the other side of the room as well.

“Guh! Creepy.”

“Don’t pay attention to them, all boys are like that.”

“Speaking of which, what are you all going to do?”

“Ahh~ I am in the volleyball team, so I’ll have to practice~”

“Huh? Didn’t you play national-level volleyball in middle school?”

“Yeah, all four girls from our class are strong, it’s just that we have to train the two girls from Class A. We have two substitutes as well, but I don’t think we’ll need them.”

“Is that so? What about you?”

“I am participating in the balancing race, so I think I’ll go make some rounds, we can hang out afterward.”

“Okay~ What about you, Takara-san? You’re on the basketball team, right?”

“Yes, we are thinking of having practice matches against the boys’ basketball team. Three of our women members, including myself, are confident in our skills. And it seems that all five of the boys have some accomplishments in basketball, so it’d be good practice for both the teams.”

“Is that so? What about the other two girls on the basketball team?”

“Well, I am not sure, we’ll find out soon enough.”

“Minami-chan, what about you?”

“Ah, I asked Takumi-kun and he said he’ll practice for football a bit and asked me to come with him. After he’s done with that, we can practice for the three-legged race.”

“Is that so? Well, whatever, have fun I guess.”

“Yep.”

After a bit, the students dispersed. Those who wished to practice headed over to their designated locations and the others just moved about, finding something to do.

As for me, Fumiya dragged me to the football field, saying that he wanted to have the team together to at least have a few practice matches.

Minami accompanied us since all that she was participating in was the three-legged race and she couldn’t practice without a partner. I did ask her if she would rather try it out with another free person, but she declined, saying that she’d rather wait for me.

When we reached the soccer field, there seemed to be something going on in the middle as a whole crowd was gathered at one spot, screaming and yelling could be heard from quite a distance away.

“Minami.”

“Yes?”

“Stay here, all of them are boys, I can’t imagine something good coming out of it.”

Minami seemed hesitant, but she nodded.

“Yuzaki, stay with her for a bit.”

“Okay.”

Yuzaki didn’t seem too invested in the farce, and since he would be able to spend time alone with Minami, he enthusiastically nodded and led Minami to a less populated area.

“Takumi, you sure you wanna go there?”

“Hmm? Why not? It seems interesting.”

“Sigh~ I just can’t seem to figure out what you’re thinking.”

“What do you mean? When have I not enjoyed fighting?”

“Y-you’re right.”

Fumiya grimaced as he recalled the hundreds of times I’ve put him to the ground during our morning training sessions. It looks like he has forgotten that what we do every morning is hand-to-hand combat. Basically fighting.

As we weaved through the crowd and gradually got closer to the eye of the storm, the density of people increased. We had to push people aside to progress, it wouldn’t be unprecedented in the least if someone were to pick a fight with us, but nothing of the sort happened just because of Fumiya’s presence.

“Your popularity knows no gender, eh?”

“Shut up.”

We finally managed to reach the center of the conflict as I poked fun at Fumiya.

“But we have to practice too, you know?”

“Isn’t your team competent, at the very least?”

“And why does that matter?”

“Look at us, half of our team doesn’t even know what a striker or midfielder is, we need this, please understand.”

“You have a point, you need this. However, all of us want to practice as well.”

“First of all, that’s super rude. Also, aren’t you from Class A? Why would you need any practice?”

“Huh?”

“Your class is partnered up with Class E. You guys are the final boss for the rest of us. You are likely to win even if you go in all willy-nilly, without any practice.”

“It doesn’t work like that. We indeed have superior individual prowess, but if we don’t operate as a team, it would be for naught.”

At this point, someone seemed to notice Fumiya’s presence and shouted out loud.

“Aoki-kun is here! Class E is here!”

After the boy shouted that, all the eyes focused on Fumiya, making him flinch.

“W-what’s the problem here?”

He tried to act calm and composed, but it was clear that he was extremely flustered by the situation.

“Aoki-kun! These guys are fighting amongst themselves, trying to gain possession of the soccer field for practice. When I said that we want to have the field too, they simply denied our access, saying that we don’t need it.”

The team members from Class A crowded around Fumiya and spoke to him in a pleading voice.

“Is that so…?”

Fumiya sneakily looked at me, the desire to get a solution was clear in his eyes.

It’s true that all the classes need to practice, and it’s also true that, unlike some of the other sports, we only have one football field for the first-year students to use, and we can’t possibly go to the fields of senior students. And while those are important factors, I think the reason why the weaker classes don’t want the others to practice is that they’re scared, and are hoping that our lack of preparation could create an opportunity for them to gain victory.

How naive…

I mouthed the words ‘knockout tournament’, and observed as Fumiya’s expression went for completely clueless to confused to finally understanding.

Fumiya had sometimes followed me when I went to dojos or such to release my stress. The format I fought in was knockout, where unless one is beaten, they continue to fight. And if the winner beats everyone, then the cycle of opponents begins again.

“It looks like everyone wants to practice, yeah? Why don’t we hold a knockout tournament then?”

The student belonging to the weaker class said in confusion.

“Knockout tournament? How would that help? You guys are just going to win and take the field for the rest of the day, right?”

“Nothing of the sort. Hear me out. Each match will be a golden goal, the team that scores first wins and stays in, while the team that loses gets eliminated for that round. Since it’s only one goal, the game would end fairly quickly unless neither team can score. In which case, we’ll end the match at fifteen minutes and have a penalty shootout to decide the winner.”

Fumiya’s words caught the attention of everyone present. Fumiya has been getting better and better at adapting to situations.

“Since it’s just five teams, every team would play one game in about an hour. Every team would be able to practice, with no exceptions. And since it’ll be an actual game, it’ll help out the players more, how about it?”

Once Fumiya was done, the crowd descended into silence. What he said was correct, the time was about 9 AM right now, so we had about 8-9 hours to practice as the gates would be closed at 7 PM. Even in an extreme situation where every game ended in a tie and needed a penalty shootout to decide the winner, which was highly unlikely, the team that had lost would be able to play again in about an hour, which was enough time to rest and observe how the other teams played.

“We… can agree to that.”

The weaker class students discussed it among themselves and said hesitantly. Fumiya’s expression brightened as he said.

“Good then. Let’s draw lots and decide on team numbers. Team 1 would play Team 2, the losing team would be eliminated and the winning team would go on to play Team 3 right after, and so on… Easy, right?”

Fumiya clapped his hands and asked with a smile. After getting affirmation from all those present, he waved to his side, direction all the attention to where he was waving.

“Okay. Every team please gather your members, spectators please stand outside the field, we have to start as soon as possible so we can get as many games in as possible.”

One of the soccer club regulars from our class nodded and began professionally directing the students. It seemed like he was used to it. And in no more than twenty minutes, the first match was already underway. We were Team 3, so we will be having a match against the winner of the current game. I might be the goalkeeper, but all of this seems quite interesting.

The first match ended within a mere three minutes. It was an overwhelming victory for Team 2 which consisted of Classes I and B over Team 1 that was made up of Classes G and C.

Team 1 was rather gloomy but they didn’t lose their spirit, all eleven of them headed over to a corner and began observing and discussing amongst themselves.

We headed over to the field without wasting time. The student that had directed the students previously took charge of our team. Our positions were decided yesterday itself during the gathering, including that of the captain’s, all we had to do now was to play our part, and so we did.

The first match against Team 2, the ball never entered our side of the field so I didn’t have anything to do. We won around seven minutes into the game.

The second game, the ball managed to find its way to me once but I stopped it pretty easily, and we won in five minutes.

The third game was pretty intense, the other team managed to shoot at our goal a couple of times, but they didn’t manage to score. It ended in ten minutes.

The fourth match was once again with Team 1, and to be honest, even when our team was kinda tired, they were crushed. It didn’t even take us one minute to score the goal. Immediately after the center pass, Fumiya managed to snatch the ball and passed it to a football club regular who scored quite flashily.

The same thing continued to happen for about an hour more. At this point, our team was completely tired, even Fumiya, whose stamina I could vouch for, was slowing down and breathing hard. But even so, the other team just couldn’t score a goal since I was still pretty energetic, so our team took it easy as they were confident that I wouldn’t let the other team score.

“Fumiya, let’s end this.”

When the cycle had completed thrice and we were up against Team 1 again, I called out to Fumiya when he came to our goal post to take a breather and pointed to Minami who was watching out the game from the sidelines with sparkling eyes.

Fumiya seemed to pick up on my intention as he jogged over to our captain’s side and whispered something to him, prompting the captain to call out to the captain of the opposite team.

It was decided that we were done for now and would withdraw until after lunch and would continue with the tournament then. Our whole team consented and went their ways. Some accompanied their girlfriends or friends to their practice, some just decided to laze around, some wandered off to the area where girls were practicing. Fumiya said that he’d go help out the other students with their preparation.

As for me, I headed over to Minami.

“You wanna go train?”

Minami, who seemed to have already heard what happened, nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes. I know the location, let’s go together.”

This kind of enthusiasm and willfulness is quite unlike Minami, who is always gentle and timid, but it is quite refreshing to see her like this.

I followed her and we made our way to the unused track that was discarded by the track and field club. Many students were gathered there, but most of them were just lazing around as the events they were participating in didn’t seem to have major importance in the grand scheme of things.

Minami’s presence drew the eyes of almost every boy present, and me being beside her drew their animosity.

“There are fewer people over there.”

Minami pointed at an isolated area at the corner of the ground where no people were gathering, I nodded my head in affirmation and followed her without any hesitation.

“Uwah!”

Minami, who was walking by my side, suddenly tripped over an unnoticeable mound made of mud. I was quick enough to catch her and help her up, but her expression seemed apologetic.

“I am sorry, Takumi-kun. Honestly, while I may be sufficiently dexterous, I am quite clumsy when it comes to running and stuff. But I still forced our names into the three-legged race, I feel like I will just hold you back.”

She said with her usual timid voice. Her head was lowered and her fists were clenched.

“It’s fine, isn’t it? If I had a problem with participating, I would’ve voiced it out yesterday itself. Moreover, it’s not just you who will be running, I will do my best to support you. So don’t worry too much about it. Here.”

I extended my elbow towards her. Minami seemed a little startled at first, but soon her expression was filled with hesitation.

“You wouldn’t want to trip again, would you?”

“N-no.”

She grabbed my arm, leaning a bit onto me. After a bit of light conversation, Minami’s mood relaxed, her hesitance disappeared. She began enthusiastically talking about her excitement over the school trip, her birthday which was right around the corner, and other things. Minami seemed very happy as her expression was the personification of a bloomed flower.

When we reached the rather empty area of the field, I saw two figures staring at us. Minami seemed to notice their gaze too, as she looked at them with surprise and spoke up with a complicated expression.

“Chiaki… and Miya?”


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