Chapter 16 – Rank Up
The moment Ryou entered the backstreet, he almost turned around.
Before turning the corner he noticed there was someone around there, and when he went around the corner his eyes opened wide their face.
Erika, Azusa and Saki see Ryou who is approaching. Azusa laughs while grinning and says to Ryou.
“Long time no see.”
Ryou sighs with half-opened eyes.
“Is that how it is? I don’t think it can be called a long time.”
Azusa frowns slightly to Ryou’s question.
“That’s a disreputable thing to say. We’ve been waiting for you.”
While Ryou is thinking about what to say, Erika in a somewhat reserved manner asks Ryou.
“Can we return together?”
Ryou’s head started to ache. He did his best in order to avoid returning together, yet this situation came to be.
Generally it would be too unnatural to decline in this situation, above all when they have such a close relation. Ryou has also understood at this time that the energy required to personally decline in front of Erika would be more than doing it by message.
Ryou, realizing that he can’t decline, lets out a large sigh in resignation inside his heart and answers while smiling wryly.
Erika who is delighted lets out a large breath of relief.
(We were smiling last week, now it’s this this expression…)
Ryou finally realizes here that him declining has hurt Erika’s feelings, and hated himself. At the same time as entering that self-loathing, he thinks about how Erika could be considering him to be close to herself, and the throbbing in his chest couldn’t be stopped.
The situation he wanted to avoid has come. Ryou believes that the situation he is most uneasy about has about a one in a hundred chance of happening. However, in the case of that one in a hundred, such a thing usually comes along abruptly but Ryou will try to avoid it all.
But now that things have come to this, he decided to enjoy returning with the first love girl before his eyes; Ryou is surprised at the speed which his feelings changed.
“My bad, I’ve declined your invitations for a while.”
Ryou apologetically said so to Erika.
“It’s okay, looking at your face I can understand you really are tired.”
Erika waves her hand in a fluster in response to Ryou’s words.
While smiling wryly from what Erika said, he indicates to the bags under his eyes.
“Yeah, hey, is your body alright?”
Erika asks Ryou in a voice filled with sincere worry. With Erika’s worry being transmitted to Ryou, he had feeling of guilt though it doesn’t show on his face, he waved his hand laughingly.
“It’s alright, merely a lack of sleep. Today’s a day off from my job so I can return slowly.”
Hearing so, Erika has an appearance of relief and smiles gently.
“That so, then today is a slow rest day.”
(Seeing her like this, as I thought they don’t look alike…)
Ryou looks at Erika’s smiling face, his heart jumps with a similar sensation as when it was the two of them on that Sunday, he quickly puts his hand on his chest to settle its stirrings. Though he tried to look away from Erika, it wasn’t possible and Erika saw it.
When Erika looks curiously at Ryou, who abruptly moved his hand to his chest, their eyes came together. Erika also feels her heart throbbing and couldn’t divert her eyes away from Ryou, naturally it became that the two had locked eyes, after several seconds had passed, Azusa raised her voice.
The Ryou and Erika duo simultaneously turned their heads towards Azusa while startled.
“Wh-what is it?
Azusa who is fed up looks at them with unamused eyes and said to the two.
“I would like it if you don’t forget that we are here as well.”
While saying so, Azusa pulls in Saki.
Saki nods while they look at the two of them.
“Wh-what are you saying, it’s nothing like I forgot.”
“A-ah, I didn’t forget.”
The two blush while saying so, what was she worrying about, Azusa puts her hand on her forehead. However what she must do today hasn’t changed, Azusa instructs herself, putting her hand back down she says.
“Anyways, let’s not stand here forever and go.”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
The two with their faces still red agree with Azusa, lining up they began to walk.
The four had been walking for several minutes, when the strange air had disappeared, Azusa said to Erika.
“Erika, can you walk on ahead with Saki for a bit?”
Ryou once again strengthened his wariness.
Erika turns her head towards Azusa and says in a suspicious voice.
Azusa says with a cool face.
“Don’t worry, we won’t flip your skirt again.”
Azusa’s words cause Erika’s face to go red, quickly moving her neck she looks at Ryou, with speed not losing to Erika’s, Ryou looks away to the sky.
Ryou who looked away to the sky holds his nose with his hand. Before it was ‘a panty shot of a cute girl’ now that memory is ‘a panty shot of the girl he likes’, it’s a rank up. After being self-aware that he like her, to remember that would be somewhat discourteous due to the felling similar to immorality he hadn’t recalled it (but it wasn’t forgotten).
Naturally because of Azusa’s words Ryou instantly recalled it and thought his nose might bleed from stimulation.
To Ryou who is trying to make absolutely no eye contact, the red faced Erika looks at him with somewhat stern eyes, next she glares at Azusa.
“I only want to speak with Sakuragi-kun for a little.”
Being glared at, Azusa without a break in her cool face she said so to Erika.
Pouting to such an Azusa, Erika links arms with Saki and walks on ahead without saying anything.
Azusa, who finds Erika’s appearance amusing, looks at her from behind with a smile.
When Erika is walking along, Ryou breathes a sigh of relief and finally brought his eyes down. Azusa calls out to him at the same time.
While making an unnaturally surprised appearance, Azusa says to Ryou.
“Were you not stimulated remembering about the panty shot of the girl you like?”
Reflexively positioning his hand on his forehead, Ryou speaks while groaning.
“……You, that way of talking…, wait, what’s with the ‘like’?”
In the middle of saying that Ryou turns to Azusa.
Without a change in expression, Azusa says.
“If you think it shouldn’t be exposed then you should conceal it, but shouldn’t you take care of yourself a bit more?”
“…What’s this about?”
“That’s all, I could understand these futile actions even if I was growing senile you know?”
Ryou breathes out with a bitter look on his face.
“Don’t worry, I won’t say anything to Erika.”
Ryou looks at Azusa. Azusa looks at Ryou.
“…So then, talk.”
Ryou spoke first.
Without averting her glance, Azusa looks straight ahead to Ryou.
“Why are you avoiding Erika?”
Ryou was at a loss for an instant but immediately opened his mouth.
“……it’s not avoiding…”
Azusa interrupts Ryou’s words halfway.
“What? I though t I said I was tired from work, to call that avoiding…”
“It’s not that you’re too tired from your part time job to meet us. As a reason not to see us, in order to avoid us did you not put in time at work?”
This woman’s an esper, Ryou thought.
“……That’s merely speculation. First of all, what do I have to avoid? Because I don’t want to stand out, I don’t want to meet up with you guys, did I not already say so?”
Azusa nodded with a serious face.
“I understand that. You’re not a man who breaks his promises often, is what I think.”
Ryou smiled bitterly.
“I feel like I’ve received a high evaluation…, then, what is the reason you think I’m avoiding you guys?”
“Us, no, rather it should be said that Erika is being avoided.”
“Because you like Erika? Don’t deny it now, or the talk won’t advance.”
Roughly scratching his head, Ryou silently affirms so.
“I believe it likely due to that Sunday when you went out with Erika afterwards it reached the point where you were conscious of her in that way. Anyway, it was clearly reflected on your face on Wednesday.”
Ryou again, by reflex puts his hand on his forehead and says groaningly.
“…Was it so clear…?”
“It was. You would have to be greatly thickheaded to not notice that despite your appearance.”
Azusa’s expression doesn’t break at all while saying so.
Ryou with his hand still on his forehead looks up to the sky.
Azusa says with a slight laugh.
“Don’t worry, Erika didn’t notice. Though Saki did.”
“Perhaps, she’s slow?”
Azusa shakes her head while saying.
“No, it was both at that time.”
Ryou who found that slightly hard to follow lets out that voice.
So that Ryou doesn’t hear, Azusa says in a small voice, “You were also at that time”, but Ryou seemed to have heard it.
“What was that now?”
“No, it’s nothing. So I understood you were conscious of Erika on Wednesday. But I don’t understand from there.”
“What of it?”
“Usually, if you’re invited by the girl you like, I think you would go to meet that girl at any cost. Monday, Tuesday, I understand you wanting to give priority to your male acquaintances over being with Erika. But by Thursday during lunch it could be perceived that you were avoiding meeting us for two consecutive days, you also declining every single invitation to return together is strange isn’t it.”
“There was my work…”
“That’s true to some extent. However, what’s with the frequency you have refused the invitation from the girl you like last week and this week? That’s the point which is plenty peculiar, they’re refused then refused, even if it’s out of a sense of guilt, would you not want to see the girl you like when lunch break starts, or show your face a little just before it ends, even if there are words of apology don’t you think it’s strange?”
“You said you wanted us not to come to the classroom, and we are following that. In order to meet up with you, or so that you can see Erika, there’s only lunchbreak, returning home and days off isn’t it. Even I consider how you’re thinking, there some unusual contradicts. Don’t you think it’s not strange to consider that you’re ‘avoiding’?”
When saying so, Azusa faces towards Ryou looking up to him, Ryou doesn’t avert from the eyes which are looking at himself.
“I’ll ask again. Why are you avoiding Erika?”
What should Ryou say, he was at a loss on that. Though it would be easy to lie, now, he is hesitating to lie to the girl in front of his eyes. Nevertheless to tell the truth, he doesn’t want to do such a thing, even if he says it, those words won’t be believed, also to say such a thing would be unpleasant.
Perhaps it wouldn’t become something like that with the girl before him. However, if he says ‘that was the me of that time’ how would he come to be seen, when thinking so he started dreading it. When he thought about that dread, Azusa didn’t miss the little shake in Ryou’s eyes.
“There seems to be some circumstances as to why you’re avoiding us. Though I don’t know what kind of circumstances it is, If possible I wish for you talk to talk to me about it so we can resolve it together. If you keep avoiding so, then your close friends will be hurt more. More than that, I don’t want to see her be sad. If you can’t say, if you say you’ll be avoiding Erika after this, then please say you won’t be meeting up with her anymore. Think about it for the sake of the girl you like. If you have a half-hearted attitude then it’s Erika who will hurt the most.”
After Azusa finishes saying so, Ryou absentmindedly thinks about his own self-centeredness, partway through realizing something, Ryou looks up to Azusa and says.
“Hey, judging from your way of speaking, it’s as if…”
Before Ryou could finish speaking Erika came back running with Saki calling out to him in a loud voice.
Erika who reached Ryou is out of breath but says to him in a hurry.
“Sakuragi-kun! There’s a fight in the plaza over there! There’s people from our school and another school!”
Ryou felt a cold sweat running down his back. Did the one in a hundred come.