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This one would be the main focus, but this chapter is quite difficult to write.1
A few days later, Hiyori bowed her head in the library in the evening.
“Thank you very much, truly…”
“Does the harassment seem to have stopped?”
“Yes. Thanks to you, I think I can lead a normal life from now on.”
Just as Ryuuen said, he did something about it. There should be no more strange actions done to Hiyori from now on.
In addition, according to rumors, it seemed Morofuji would be returning to school tomorrow. It was just the right timing to transfer the hate.
“In that case, this reading time should no longer be necessary.”
“Ah, um… about that.”
Hiyori looked restless, which was unusual for her.
“If the two of you don’t mind, I was wondering… if we can continue having this time from now on as well.”
It seemed Arisu-chan intended to entrust the decision to me as she remained silent.
I thought about the meaning of Hiyori’s words and digested them.
First of all, it was true that I was interested in reading. This quiet space and calm time felt comfortable, and even if I refused her suggestion, it wasn’t like I would stop visiting the library.
However, that wasn’t what Hiyori wanted to ask. She wanted to read “together with us”. Rather than immersing herself in the world of books alone, she said she prefers to spend it with us.
My answer was…
“Okay. I’ve come to enjoy reading books and visiting the library together with Hiyori has already become a routine for me. There’s no way I don’t want to read together. Like I said last time, I don’t mind continuing it until graduation.”2
“Aah, Haruto-kun… it really makes me happy.”
Hiyori, who had a big smile on her face, looked very attractive.
Seeing that, I was filled with a sense of fulfillment from doing a good deed.
The library was a little noisy today.
The number of vacant seats was visibly small. Since the exam was coming up, it seemed many chose the library as the place to study. I didn’t mind if they were just focusing on their study, but many students were chatting at a reasonable volume, creating a different atmosphere than usual.
I started reading as usual, but I couldn’t concentrate. People who didn’t usually use the library were being noisy and it felt annoying. They should consider the feelings of people who want a quiet place.
“Should we just borrow the book and go back?”
“It’s unfortunate, but that might be the better choice.”
We gave up, left our seats, and headed to the lending counter.
At that time, I found a group of Class C including Kei-chan. There were many members with poor grades, such as Sudou and Ike, but were they doing a study group?
Also, Horikita wasn’t among them. According to Kiyotaka, she should be the one in charge of the special exam this time. Perhaps there was some sort of accident.
“Ah, Isn’t it Haruto? What’s wrong?”
Kei-chan talked to me. It seemed she caught me watching them.
“Aah, well, I just thought it was a rare grouping. Sorry if it bothered you.”
“We are the group that was kicked out by Horikita.”
“…I never thought such a group existed.”
Kiyotaka was actually there as well. He was sitting a little further away, so I didn’t notice. I could tell that he didn’t want to stand out, so I didn’t ask him.
“That woman is seriously screwing around. It really irritates me.”
“Calm down, Sudou. I won’t abandon you.”
Kei-chan was soothing Sudou, who was clearly in a bad mood.
I figured it out somehow. He must be annoyed at being put down by Horikita.
“People with low academic abilities should study among other low achievers… That’s what Horikita said.”
Kiyotaka told me in a whisper. That was certainly something that Horikita would say.
It wasn’t like I couldn’t understand the reasoning. There was no doubt that the group who made the questions had to be academically excellent, and if those people were dragged down, the defeat would be unavoidable. Even for the students who weren’t good at studying, it was better to hold a study group with members who weren’t included in the question-making groups rather than having them unable to focus on both due to teaching the low academic students.
However, Horikita put it in a really terrible manner. Her wording could only be taken as provocation.
In the first place, it was hard to say that was the best choice. It might not be a wrong choice, but that would mean abandoning people with low academic ability… Horikita underestimated the value that would be lost by doing so.
“I’m not very smart either, so let’s do our best together. We’ve come this far, so we don’t want to quit here, right?”
It was Kei-chan who said that. As the group heard that, the surrounding students nodded in agreement.
Their bond became firmer. At least the people in this group would think the leader of their class could only be Kei-chan.
I didn’t want to get in the way, so I just winked at Kiyotaka and left.
That night, Kikyou-chan came to our room.
She hadn’t visited for the past few days… but was she really alright?
“Aah, it’s really annoying!”
“Okay, let’s hear it out first.”
“Seriously, she could just die. As I thought, I really can’t deal with her!”
Kikyou-chan didn’t listen to my words and kicked the cushion on the floor.
It hit Arisu-chan’s face who was sitting on the bed with a soft sound.
“…Please come here for a bit.”
“Ah…sorry, I’m sorry, Arisu-chan.”
Seeing Arisu-chan being pushed back to the bed by the cushion, Kikyou-chan seemed to return to her senses.
Kikyou-chan looked apologetic and raised Arisu-chan’s small body.
“For now, please calm down. I will always be your ally.”
“Thank you. Haruto-kun too, I’m sorry. I’m very irritated… I never thought Horikita would be leading for the exam this time.”
“You’re right. Perhaps this would be the only time she did, but it might be intolerable for Kikyou-san. Kiyotaka-kun doesn’t even make a consideration about this after all…”
Certainly, I also thought the same. The reason that Kikyou-chan could be so stable so far was because Horikita’s decline played a big part in it. Kikyou-chan must have never expected Horikita to suddenly act like a leader this time.
Also, Kikyou-chan’s academic ability should be among the higher ranks within Class C. Considering Horikita had been eyeing Kikyou-chan before, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Horikita would nominate Kikyou-chan as the member of the question-making group. That was probably the reason why Kikyou-chan had been so busy recently.
There was no way she could take off her façade in front of the class, so she had no choice but to put up with Horikita’s attitude. Then she could no longer bear it and exploded earlier.
Arisu-chan smiled gently and kissed Kikyou-chan lightly.
…Kikyou-chan was crying. I regretted it a little and thought I should have visited her, even if by force.
“Hic… I can’t take it, I don’t want to meet her anymore. I just want to live together with just the three of us.”
Since summer, there have been no events that put excessive stress on Kikyou-chan. It might cause her mind to be fractured due to the sudden turn of events.
I also sat next to them and decided to talk with her at the same eye level. It was because it might feel oppressive if I talked from above her. This kind of consideration was important.
“Kikyou-chan, you have worked hard enough. So you can just withdraw now.”
“I can’t understand without you saying it. You must have endured until now despite having to stay with the person you hate to death. You are really amazing. I can’t do the same.”
I really meant that. Due to my personality, which prioritized my will above all, I could never imitate Kikyou-chan’s way of life. I knew how hard it was to match things with others.
“Is it okay for me to give up?”
“It’s okay. There’s no need for you to work harder than this. You can just abandon Horikita.”
“But if I did that, my position in the class will-”
“It’s okay. With Kei-chan in the low-performing group, nobody would mind even if you quarrel and decide to leave the question-making group. Rather, I think Sudou’s group would look at you more favorably instead.”
Kikyou-chan probably had no idea what was going on with the members other than the question-making group. I was sure those guys were getting along better and having fun. Even if Kikyou-chan chose to run away here, there was no doubt they would protect her and say “it was Horikita’s fault.”
“Does that mean I can run away?”
“Of course you can. I don’t want to see Kikyou-chan suffer.”
Kikyou-chan accepted my persuasion and nodded.
“Thank you. You saved me again.”3
Her usual cute smile returned.
Feeling relieved, I laid down on the bed.
After that, Kikyou-chan withdrew from the question-making group and started participating in Kei-chan’s study group instead. Kikyou-chan was welcomed as a valuable teacher role, which greatly reduced her stress.
From Kiyotaka’s perspective, he also thought this was the ideal turn of events, so he sent me a message “That really helps.” Perhaps he thought how troublesome it would be if Kikyou-chan was paired with Horikita.
And Horikita became more and more isolated. Other students began to say how it was impossible for Horikita to put the group together and how unsuitable she was as a leader. Seeing the students of her class perceive her as such, how much humiliation would she receive?
…it seemed the day Horikita broke down wouldn’t be that far away.
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