Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu:Volume1 Chapter4
 Chapter 4
After the mid-term exams, the entire school was extremely boisterous as the summer holidays would soon be here. Some students were discussing holiday plans, while there were others who had decided to confess their feelings to someone before the graduation ceremony, and thus was extremely nervous.
Having managed to successfully stave off the threat of holiday classes (I barely scraped through quite a few subjects), I was chatting with the three idiots and a block head (Nobunaga, but subjectively, people probably think of us as the five idiots) as usual during the lunch break.
"It's summer, so we should go to the beach. The crashing waves, the hot sun, the burning sands, and the passionate watermelon-hitting competition. This is how we Japanese people relax......but why are there only guys!"
"You're right. Our second choice is to go into the mountains to get away from the heat, this is how a Japanese summer should be......but we might be attacked by bears!"
"Ah, right. We could go to the nearby park to drink, play, sing and strip through the night, this is the true joy of summer......but we'll probably get arrested!"
Looks like all three of them didn't like summer, which would explain the babbling.
"Speaking of summer, we have to go to Yumei."
Even Nobunaga was starting to babble......Yumei? Is he planning to go to the Kyuushuu Islands?
"Hey, Yuuto, what do you think? Real men should go swimming right?"
Naigai suddenly asked me. Is he trying to drag me down into this as well?
"No, no, no, the UV rays at the beach are too strong, they're not good for health. Camping in the in the mountains full of fresh air is the clever thing to do."
"Don't you think that having a party at the public park is the best choice? We won't need to spend a lot of money too."
"Doujinshi is still the best!"
The four of them turned towards me at the same time...This.....is so boring!
I'm alright with anything, be it climbing up mountains or swimming in oceans (I didn't really understand what Nobunaga was talking about), but there'll be lots of problems if everyone were to go together. Because......No matter where we end up going, I have full confidence in their ability to get into trouble. And the worst part about these holiday proposals is that only guys are involved (in other words, it's not very tempting).
"Ah, I think I'll abstain."
Because no matter which proposal I support, someone will be unhappy, so it'll be better not to say anything.
"You're too much, king of patronizing!"
"I believe that I've warned you about changing this patronizing habit of yours before, you'll get into big trouble one day if you don't change."
"Tsk! Stop being so indecisive!"
"Yuuto, you've always been indecisive, so much so that you take a lifetime to even order your food at a restaurant......"
They were going at it again. But now that I'm used to it, it doesn't bother me.
I slump onto my desk, trying to ignore the four of them.
--Speaking of summer holidays......What will Haruka be doing?
I suddenly started to be very interested about that.
I really do not care about the holiday plans of the three idiots, but on the other hand, I am extremely interested in what Haruka is planning to do for hers.
Haruka's from a rich family, so she'll probably spend her holidays either enjoying life on a southern island or playing sports in Karuizawa right?
I looked over to the other side of the classroom. Haruka was enjoying a cup of tea while reading, her graceful posture giving everyone the image of an elegant Lily. Although the book that she was reading had a luxurious cover that was full of the smell of literature, but ever since that day, I know that what's on the surface may not be the real thing. Please don't drop that cover in front of other people!
Haruka suddenly stopped reading and gazed towards me, our eyes meeting. She blushed with a little embarassment, but still smiled and waved at me. Ah~She's too cute.
If it was possible, I would rather go out with Haruka then to go on some trip with the three idiots......Ah, I seem to be getting too full of myself. Even though we've been rather close these few months, but I don't think we're close enough that she would consent to go out with me during the summer holidays.
Then again, it couldn't hurt to ask...
"Hmm? You're asking whether I have any plans for the summer holidays?"
"Yes, are you planning to go anywhere?"
I took the chance after class to ask her about her plans in the corridor. With her head slightly inclined to the side, Haruka answered my question a little mischievously.
"Hmm...I've already decided to go to my family's summerhouse in Hayama. I have a piano concert in August, and after that I'm going to play tennis with my grandfather in Oze."
Just as I had expected, Haruka's summer was packed with all the activities that daughters of rich families do.
"Hmm, what else do I have......Ah, there's a place that I would like to go."
"What would that be?"
"The Summer Comiket."
......And what is that?
"I read on on <<Innocent Smile>>, they seem to be selling the limited edition figures of the tea ceremony versions of <<Clumsy Girl Aki-chan>> and <<Useless Girl Megu-chan>>......I think it'll be a really exciting event."
Haruka looked like a maiden in love when she was talking about the Summer Comiket. Well, at least I know what the Summer Comiket is now.
"Where will this be held at?"
"It's at the Tokyo International Expo. I don't dare to go by myself, so I was thinking of giving up, but......"
"We can get there by taking the Lily Pelican......"
That place wasn't very far.
"If you don't mind, I'll go with you!"
I tentatively made a suggestion.
"You......You don't mind?"
"Of course not!"
Haruka stood up excitedly, she seems to be really happy.
After celebrating for a while......
"I have to go, I'm on duty today."
Haruka said to me before walking away with a huge grin on her face.
Although it was still a little lacking (or a lot?) in temptation, but I had already decided to go somewhere alone with Haruka during the upcoming summer holidays.
After saying goodbye to Haruka, I was accosted at the school gate.
I've heard that voice somewhere before.
I looked in the direction of the voice and saw a lithe figure waving at me in front of the school gate.
"Hehe~I haven't seen you for a long time, onii-chan."
I walked over to Mika, who was wearing her school uniform.
"What's happening? Are you looking for Haruka?"
"Hmm, it's nothing much, it's just that I was in the area, so I wanted to go home with onee-chan. Is onee-chan still in school?"
"She, is, but she won't be coming out right away."
Because Haruka's on duty today, so she probably won't be out for another twenty, thirty minutes right? Now that I think of it, it was a little weird that the 'Nuit étoile' is on cleaning duty.
"I see. Well then, onii-chan, would you mind talking to me until onee-chan comes out? Since I don't get to see you often...Or do you have something more important to do?"
"No, I'm free."
I don't have a girlfriend, I have no job, and the only thing that I need to do is to prepare dinner for Ruko before seven, which means that my schedule after school is completely blank...I feel really sorry for myself.
"Wow, that's great!"
Mika jumped up excitedly. Personally, I'm alright with it, but it's not a very good idea to jump when you're wearing a skirt.
"So how has your relationship with onee-chan progressed lately?"
Mika suddenly shot a question at me in the midst of her excited jumping.
"Well...How do I put it, it's just like that."
Although we've agreed to go out together during the summer holidays, but there hasn't been any special progression other than that. Because if I were to appear to be too close to Haruka in school, I will be constantly harassed by her fan club, which is also the reason why we're unable to talk to each other in peace in front of other people.
"Hmm~This won't do! If this carries on, god knows when onii-chan will become my brother-in-law."
Mika latched on to my arm after saying that.
"Hehe, don't mind me, I just want a real onii-chan! And right now, onii-chan's the top candidate for the position of my brother-in-law."
Mika smiled mischievously.
"Or are you saying that you don't like me?"
"No, of course not......"
Anyway, Mika's extremely cute, and it's not like she's sticking to me with malicious intent. It'll probably be quite good if I were to have a younger sister like her.
It's just that--
"If you were to do this in front of other people, I think there'll be problems..."
The two of us had been the center of attention ever since Mika latched herself onto my arm.
Everyone who walked past us were whispering to their friends about us.
I overheard a few lines of what they were saying.
"That girl's a middle-schooler isn't she? Is the guy trying to hit on her?"
"But she's been calling him 'onii-chan', maybe they're brother and sister?"
"This 'onii-chan' is obviously fake. It seems to be the 'onii-chan' here has the same meaning as 'otou-san'"
"How could he do such a thing!"
Another group of people were also talking about us.
"Don't you think that girl's really cute?"
"Yes, she looks rather familiar though..."
"What is that guy trying to do? Hit on her?"
"How could he try to hit on a middle school girl in front of our school gate in broad daylight!"
Right after that group of people, another groups of people walked past us.
"Isn't that Ayase from year 2? I heard that he tried to hit on Haruka-sama..."
"He's trying to woo another girl without taking his eyes off Haruka-sama?"
"He seems to be enjoy being called 'onii-chan'"
"They're even locking arms.....Pervert!"
"...Why don't we kill him?"
"If we call for Haruka-sama's defense force, we should be able to get about twenty people within five minutes."
The last few sentences I heard made me fear for my life.
I suddenly felt an acute sense of danger, my instinct telling me that my life will be in danger if I were to stay here any longer.
"Ah, onii-chan, your face looks really pale, are you feeling unwell?"
Mika leaned towards me.
Sharp gazes from the people around us were immediately directed at me. This is bad...I'll really be murdered if this goes on.
Which is why I must get out of here (a tactical retreat).
"Ah...Mika, I'm sorry, but I suddenly remembered something important that I have to do, so I---"
"Eh? Mika? Why are you here?"
Just as I was going to pull out from this dangerous place, I was cut off by a voice coming from the school building.
It was Haruka.
Having just finished her cleaning duties, Haruka had an enchanting smile on her face as she walked towards us. This is not good, I will look more suspicious than I already am if I leave the moment Haruka comes out.
"Hey, hey! It's Haruka-sama..."
The appearance of the 'Nuit étoile' caused a commotion among the crowd, with many people fumbling in their bags to take out a weird looking headband which they promptly tied around their foreheads.
"Does Haruka-sama know that girl? They seem to be very intimate."
"Ah...Could she be Mika-sama?"
"How could you not know? That's Haruka-sama's younger sister!"
"Now that you mention it, they really do look alike."
"She's so cute..."
"But why would Haruka-sama's sister be holding onto that guy's arm so intimately?"
"...Has he gotten his dirty hands onto Haruka-sama's sister as well?"
"He's stepping on two boats at the same time..."
The atmosphere suddenly became extremely heavy after that last sentence.
"...Hey, assemble the Haruka-sama defense force, get as many people as you can! This fellow...didn't just make a move on Haruka-sama, he even has designs on Mika-sama! Tell the guys with baseball bats and shinais to bring their weapons!"
The atmosphere suddenly turned to that of a gang fight. This is bad! This is really bad!
"Mika, now that Haruka's here, I think I'll take my leave. See you tomorrow, Haruka."
"Ah~Why don't we walk back together for a short distance, we don't really get a chance like this often~"
Mika firmly locked her arms around my left arm.
"Ah, that's right, I rarely have the chance to walk home with Yuuto-san."
Haruka grabbed my right shirt sleeve.
Normally, I would say that I was holding two beautiful moon orchids in my hands, but under the current circumstances, the moon orchids looked more like flowers at a funeral (my funeral).
"Excuse me, Ayase-kun."
Someone suddenly grabbed my shoulder from behind forcefully.
I looked back and saw a guy the size of a bear, with a white headband wrapped around his head and an expression as hard as stone. He glared at me as though he was looking at the person who murdered his father.
"I would like to talk to you for a moment, would you mind following me to the back of the school campus?"
His eyes glinted dangerously. I seem to have seen him somewhere...Ah! He's the ace of our school's karate team (he was ranked third at the nationals). Rumour has it that he just sent five delinquents from another school into the hospital a few days ago...
"Ah, I won't take up too much of your time...Because it'll only hurt for a moment."
Because I could literally smell the danger in the air, I desperately mouthed 'Save.Me.From.Him!' to Mika and Haruka, to which they nodded as though they understood me perfectly.
"I see, onii-chan, you should have told us that you had promised to go with a friend!"
"Since you're going with your friend, then I guess we don't have a choice. Even though it's such a pity, but you better go with him!"
The two of them smiled as they announced my death sentence.
"That was not what I meant..."
My escape bid failed miserably...They actually thought that Mr. Karate was my friend...
"Well then, onii-chan, we'll be going now."
I could only watched as the two sisters turned their backs to me.
"Hey! This way, the defense force is waiting for you."
I was forcibly dragged in the opposite direction as Haruka and Mika.
Luckily for me, Nobunaga suddenly appeared out of nowhere (it seemed as though he had been watching the whole incident from the moment I came into contact with Mika) and helped me escape the Haruka-sama defense force (He whispered something in the ear of the karate ace, who promptly turned green and ran away). But ever since that incident, I became a class A wanted criminal in Haruka's fan club, and was forced to sneak around in school for quite a while after that.
On another day, a similar incident occurred.
That day, I was once again accosted by Mika at the school gate (she has been coming rather frequently), and after enduring the cold stares of the normal students, I was dragged towards the back of the school campus by Haruka's fan club as usual. But luckily for me, I managed to break free of Haruka's fans to run back home. But I heard two people laughing loudly the moment I stepped into my home.
"Hahaha, this is so funny."
"Ahahahaha, it really is."
One voice belonged to Ruko, and the other, was also a very familiar voice. This voice brings an inexplicable sense of pressure to anyone who hears it, so it can only be her!
I suddenly felt more exhausted than I already was.
At that moment, I had the urge to just rush up to my room. But if I don't greet the two people in the living room, the consequences will be dire (Like using the school's PA system to call me into the office, or forcing me to sing <<Give me another toki-doki love>> etc). Which is why I know from experience that this was something I had to do, and it was with a heavy heart that I walked into the living room.
"Oh, you're back."
"Yuu-chan, you're back! Sorry for disturbing you again!"
Just as I had expected, there were two people on the sofa: My idiot sister, who was sitting with her legs crossed, and her best friend, the music teacher, Yukari, who was waving to me from her seat on the sofa.
The two of them were already working, so how is it possible that they reach home before high school student such as myself? It's only half past four in the afternoon, so why are there two empty Japanese sake bottles on the table already? I had a lot of questions in my head. But I knew that if I treasured this life of mine, it was better not to ask at all. Oh well, I'm used to these two (drunkards) anyway...But something even worse happened immediately after that.
"You're later than usual, did anything happen?"
"Nope, nothing happened."
My sister stared right into my eyes. I deliberately looked away. I don't want to tell them about Haruka for the time being, because offering conversation topics to two drunkards (two very ill-mannered drunkards) was like offering an arm to a hungry tiger.
"You didn't do anything strange to Haruka and her sister did you?"
I didn't say anything, but Yukari had a creepy Doctor Faustus-like smile on her face as she held a bottle of Japanese sake in one hand.
"......What are you talking about?"
"Trying to hide it from me? It's useless, because I already know all about your relationship with Haruka and her sister from the information that Nobunaga provided."
That guy knows that I'm interested in Haruka, but he's definitely not the type who would go around gossiping about people. He may be a little patronizing at times, but he's definitely a man of principles. So even though he knows everything about my relationship with Haruka, he wouldn't tell a certain music teacher who likes to sexually harass other people.
"It was rather hard getting him to talk at first, but the moment I told him 'I'll treat your body very gently', he talked. He said 'Ah, I get it! I'll tell you everything...No, I thank you for the chance to tell you everything, Ahhhhh~I still want to preserve my virginity! Yuuto, forgive me!'"
I have no idea what they were threatening to do to him......But for the sake of my mental health, I refrained from thinking about it. I was still rather sympathetic towards my childhood friend who seemed as though he was going to be used as a human sacrifice.
"Nobunaga's information was accurate and detailed. His reports about how you talk to Haruka secretly, how you went over to Haruka's home to study for the exams, how you flirted with Haruka's sister at the school gate were extremely accurate...It was almost as though he had witnessed the events with his own eyes."
From the way Yukari was talking, it seemed as though Nobunaga had really told her everything he know. In other words, that guy know everything about Haruka! Ah! This is bad!
Don't panic! Analyze the situation calmly!
I wouldn't be that surprised at him knowing about how Haruka and I secretly talk to each other in school, and also about the incidents with Mika, but how in the world did he know about me going over to Haruka's home? I've never told anyone about that before...
"In an information-driven society such as ours, even though their are safeguards in place to protect privacy of individuals, but as long as you know how to go about doing it, it's very easy to access such information..."
I recalled the words that Nobunaga had said to me.
I finally realized how scary Asakura Nobunaga is. He's definitely a stalker.
Yukari looked at the stunned expression on my face and continued.
"Actually, I already had an clue about you and Haruka before I asked Nobunaga because you've been rather famous in school lately! When I heard people talking about how not only did that fellow try to stick his dirty paws into the 'Nuit étoile', he also has designs on her sister, and that he must be a pervert, I had a feeling that it was you, Yuu-chan."
...That's strange, why would Yukari think of me the moment other people talk about perverts?
"Because Yuu-chan is a very perverted boy, so the chances of you being the pervert that everyone's talking about is very high."
In response to my wordless protest, Yukari's response was crisp.
"...Yuu-chan, you shouldn't be too interested in little girls, I didn't educate you to become that kind of person..."
She continued in this vein while acting as though she was the caring older sister.
"Yuu-chan, because of your character, you'll definitely be bullied by young girls."
I should have known that being Yukari, babbling is the only thing that she'll do. But then, I'm really getting angry listening to her.
"Ah, Yuu-chan, are you angry?"
"...Yes, I'm angry."
Anyone would be angry after being labeled a pervert.
"I'm sorry, so please don't give me that scary face. I'm joking, even though the part about having a clue about you and Haruka was true. Because you've always been unable to leave Haruka alone, and the incident after the after-school activity is only one of them."
If she uses this to bombard me, my heart will be very painful.
"Yuu-chan, you're like a male zebra during the mating season. You're channeling all your pent-up desire into Haruka. I'm trying to stop you because of the potentially disastrous consequences. Do you know that it is an extremely tiring job to hold down a wild animal full of pent-up desire?"
"Don't talk about your own fantasies as though they were real!"
You haven't done anything at all!
"Don't be like this, being in love is a good thing. It is because of love that humans are able to develop such a high level of culture. Love is the savior of the earth! LOVE AND PEACE~"
Even though it sounds like a piece of profound knowledge that she was trying to impart, it was actually only drunken rambling. The more Yukari continued to ramble, the more excited she became, even giving me a thumbs up.
"How about this, Yuu-chan? Let's save the earth together!"
"I'll have to politely decline!"
When facing a drunkard who was practically drowning in a sea of pink, my answer only took half a second.
"Ah, I've been abandoned! Ruko, Yuu-chan's being so cold towards me."
"...No, I don't want you to be my sister-in-law either."
"Sob, sob, you siblings are like the wind from the north pole, cold and heartless..."
I decided to ignore the crying drunkard for now.
"I still have some homework to do, so I'll go up to my room now. It's not a bad thing to drink sake, but please don't drink too much. You, too, Ruko."
"Don't worry about it."
Even though I knew that Ruko's reassurance cannot be believed, but I hoped to at least prevent them from blowing fire in my home (Loading up their mouths with 96% alcohol-content vodkas before spitting it all out at the fire coming out from a lighter. This is very dangerous, good kids shouldn't imitate something like that.), so that I won't have to call civil defense.
"...Please be careful."
Just as I opened the door of the living room to walk towards my room...
Yukari called to me in an extremely serious voice. I looked back and saw Yukari with an authentic teacher's expression on her face (she really is a teacher anyway).
"...I only want to say one thing."
"And what might that be?"
This felt more serious than usual, as I answered her statement with a question while trying to calm the sudden wave of nervousness that had washed over me. Yukari answered me in an extremely serious voice.
"...Older girls are still better than younger girls. Just the difference in technique alone is nothing the younger girl can make up for..."
"Stop it, I've had enough of this!"
...This person has been lost to the world.
Ever since I got closer to Haruka, my life has been something like this.
Chatting with the three idiots and Nobunaga in school while trying to get a sneak a chance to talk to Haruka privately, and then being teased by Ruko and Yukari at home. Sometimes I'll go shopping with Haruka, and for some unknown reason, Haruka would ask me to go shopping with Mika as well.
All in all, my life has changed a little ever since I've come to know the real Nogizaka Haruka.
Most of the time, this change has brought nothing but trouble.
But I like the life I have now.
Because right now, my life is much more interesting than the boring one I've had before getting to know Haruka.
On a certain day after school, two weeks before the start of the summer holidays.
On Yukari's orders, I trudged towards the staff room. Hearing someone call out my name, I turned around to look back at the corridor.
Looking in the direction of that mesmerizing female soprano, I saw Haruka beaming as she waved to me at the other end of the corridor.
I've been marked again.
Everyone walking in the corridor was looking at me, and a significant number of the looks seemed to be hiding their murderous intent. Am I reading too much into it? But I did recognize a few faces when they were still wearing headbands.
But Haruka was still smiling like a wind that no one knows the direction of...
"I've brought the 'thing I told you about the last time'. If you're free, would you like to look at it together?"
She started to run towards my direction, but...
"Ah! Haruka! Be careful!"
There was a rag that someone probably forgot to pick up after cleaning duty on the ground between us.
Haruka, who was completely engrossed in running over that she didn't look at what was beneath her feet, stepped onto the rag with ridiculous accuracy.
Under the eyes of the audience, Haruka flew.
After flipping over in midair, she landed heavily onto the ground.
The three actions of Running->Slipping->Landing heavily was done with acrobatic fluidity.
Haruka was rubbing her waist gingerly probably because of the fact that she had fallen onto the ground. The things in her bag was scattered all around her.
Just as I was going over to help Haruka up, I suddenly realized that the looks of the people around us were a little strange.
They looked like they had seen something that they shouldn't have seen, their gazes a carbon copy of the look of a female butler who's assassinating witnesses from a hiding spot, and these looks were concentrated on Haruka.
At first, I thought that everyone was looking at Haruka because you don't get to see the 'Nuit étoile' step on a rag and fall down.
But when I saw the magazine beside her that looked like a dictionary of demon summoning, I understood what kind of looks those people were giving Haruka.
Those were looks of disgust.
'The thing I told you about the last time'!
Coincidentally, the magazine was flipped out to the page with a drawing of a blue-haired girl who was in the exact same position as Haruka right now, as she sat on the ground holding her butt. The drawing was captioned 'Clumsy girl Aki-chan clumsy position No. 3'.
Everything seem to freeze in place for a moment.
Right now, the atmosphere in the corridor was as awkward as how a karate master would have felt if he got hit in the face by his disciple while trying to show him how to block an attack.
"I...I did it again..."
Haruka sheepishly mumbled as she sat on the ground, not knowing the dire situation that she was in. But almost immediately, she realized that her surroundings were too quiet.
"Ah...What is wrong with you people?"
"Umm...Why is everyone so quiet?"
Haruka looked at me confusedly, as I didn't know how to answer her. Seeing that I was unable to answer her question, Haruka looked around, as the people whom she looked at looked away uncomfortably.
I could literally see the question marks floating on top of Haruka's head as she tried to make sense of the current situation.
"Yuuto-san, what's going on..."
She looked at me again helplessly.
Haruka finally noticed the object of personal interest that had dropped onto the ground.
"Ah, why did the 'Summer Comiket Doujinshi'...Hmm? Eh?"
Haruka's face suddenly turned as pale as the student who fainted during the principal's speech during morning assembly.
"Eh? I remember placing it in the innermost part of my bag, so why would it..."
Haruka mumbled to herself nervously as she tried to accept the current situation.
"Haruka, perhaps you should get up first?"
I helped Haruka straighten out the edge of her skirt that had been crumpled by the fall before offering her my right hand, but Haruka was acting a little strangely.
Haruka looked around her blankly, her gaze shifting between the two sides of the corridor.
"No...Don't...Please don't look at me like that. I...I..."
"Hey, hey, calm down..."
Haruka didn't seem to be able to hear me as she buried her face in her hands as she shook her head vigorously, as though she wanted to shake the looks of the people around her out of her head.
And then, tears started to roll around in Haruka's large eyes.
And then, Haruka abruptly got up from the ground, grabbed her bag and ran off.
I was left behind together with the magazine that had started all this, the piercingly painful looks now focused on me.
"Was...that really Nogizaka-san's magazine?"
"I don't know, but it definitely fell out from her bag."
"How is is possible that the 'Nuit étoile' would have such a thing..."
I heard the whispers all around me. This was bad! If this goes on, Haruka's secret will be exposed, and even if it isn't that bad, the whole school will still be talking about it. If things really come to that, then Haruka will surely be extremely upset. To be honest, I really don't want to see Haruka cry.
I have to do something!
Now that it has come to this, there was only one solution to this problem.
"Ah! It's here!"
I pointed at the magazine on the ground as I deliberately raised my voice.
"This is the magazine that I've been searching for ever since I lost it three days ago! Yes, it is the right one! I see, Nogizaka-san must have helped me pick it up. She's really a great person!"
...After forcing out every single cheesy sentence that I could remember, I realized that I really don't have any talent in acting.
But the people around me still bought it.
"...That's right. How could Nogizaka-san be reading something like that."
"Nogizaka-san is really a kind person, instead of throwing it away, she was actually looking for its owner."
"Isn't that fellow Ayase from A class? He's good friends with Nobunaga, so it's not really a surprise that he reads something like that."
"Hmm, I never thought that Ayase would have that kind of hobby. Looks like his reputation's completely destroyed."
"Is that right? I never knew that he had a reputation in the first place."
"Whatever, let's just go!"
The people around me started to walk off as as they talked among themselves (please don't talk about other people's reputation).
...Phew, looks like they believed my story.
I patted myself on the chest as I started to pick up the things that had dropped out of Haruka's bag. There were textbooks, a notebook, a pencil case, some music scores, and that magazine.
Haruka must have landed really heavily if all these things flew out of her bag. Even though they were scattered all over the place, I had picked everything up within a minute.
I stood up.
No matter what happens, I guess this incident should be over. Haruka's secret didn't get exposed, so I just need to secretly return this magazine to Haruka tomorrow. But I was a little worried about her strange behavior. Perhaps she overreacted like that time in the library (where half the library got destroyed) because it all happened so quickly!
My explanation for Haruka's behavior was very simple.
However, it seemed to be a little too optimistic.
Because Haruka didn't come to school the next day.
"That's right, after French impressionist composers like Debussy and Ravel started to feature prominently..."
Yukari was writing on the black board on the podium. Even though her handwriting was like a high school girl's handwriting, she was very familiar with the content of the lesson.
"...the main characteristics of impressionist music is that it tries to break free of the shackles of classical music in three main ways: Melody, harmony, and rhythm. In short, impressionist music places emphasis on composing on instinct, through personal feelings, as opposed to stubbornly forcing out music in a mind chained by the rules of classical music..."
Yukari's explanation reflected her thorough understanding of the subject. Even though she's like a perverted middle-aged man on the inside, this person is a surprisingly good teacher...Anyway, Yukari would be the prime example of how a person's character and her teaching ability is on completely different levels of the mind.
But I was unable to pay attention to Yukari's lesson, and the reason is not just because of the fact that I've always found music to be boring (if I dared to say it out loud, a metal fist will come flying towards me), but also because I was worrying about something else.
Haruka's seat was empty again.
Three days after the incident, I still wonder if I had done the right thing.
I sighed deeply in my heart.
Today was the third day that Haruka had been absent from school.
Ever since the 'Dropped magazine incident' (my own name for it), Haruka had been absent from school. I had asked Yukari about it, but only got sexually harassed in response.
"She's not feeling well~What did you do to make her so tired?"
Because the amount of energy expended while trying to get Yukari to talk wouldn't be worth the information I'll get, I wisely chose to drop the issue.
Is Haruka really just feeling unwell? It can't be, right?
I was still thinking about the magazine in question that was currently in my bag. Now that I think of it, Haruka probably overreacted because she thought that her hobby was exposed.
But no matter how much I thought about it, someone as stupid as me was unable to make any sense out of the facts available to me.
But no matter what, I can't leave Haruka alone like this.
--I'll try visiting her!
If Nobunaga and Yukari knew about what I intended to do, they'll probably laugh at me for exaggerating the seriousness of the situation (although from my perspective, they were more like ghosts who haunt me all the time), but I'm really worried about Haruka.
And so, I decided to go visit Haruka after school.
Do you guys have a problem with it?
Ever since that incident, something else had changed around me.
Nowadays, a pile of letters will fall out whenever I open my shoe locker. Of course these aren't love letters, but hate mail cursing me and expressing their disgust towards me.
I threw all the letters into the furnace. I had wanted to just leave them there on the ground, but these letters all had my name written on it, so if I don't get rid of them, I'll probably be seen as the person responsible for writing all the letter. The hate mail writers are really smart to even take that into account! If they were willing to use those brains of theirs in more constructive ways, our steadily regressing standard of living would be better wouldn't it?
I sighed as I opened up a few of them.
"Don't go near Haruka-sama! You pervert! Don't let Haruka-sama come into contact with something like that! FUCK!"
"Someone like you will never be good enough for Haruka-sama! You're way out of your league! Stupid otaku!"
"You better not have made a miniature figurine of Haruka-sama, you pervert!"
The letters were full of incendiary words.
I sighed deeply.
I've received such hate mail before. But the contents were not as hateful as the ones I've been receiving. The previous ones merely said things like 'Don't smile to Haruka-sama like that' or 'Don't appear within 5 meters of Haruka-sama, and don't breathe the same air that she does'. Thanks to Nobunaga's manipulation of the information that went around the school, the letters stopped for a while, but ever since that incident, I started to receive massive amounts of hate mail again, and some strange-looking people had even contacted me.
"...I can't take this anymore!"
In any case, the 'Fellow who always sticks to the Nuit étoile (me)...is a perverted otaku' seems to have been accepted as an undeniable fact by the school population. The reason for this is obviously because of the incident a few days ago. But this time, I can't ask Nobunaga to help me out of this, because the moment people think that the magazine isn't mine, they'll start to suspect Haruka. But because it's Nobunaga after all, since he joyfully came up to me and said, 'Wow~Yuuto, it's great that you've finally found your true calling and joined our ranks!',
I guess I could try to ask him for help.
"I don't understand...Why does everyone hate otakus so much?"
Or maybe they just don't like me!
When I settle down and think of it, the second possibility is higher. Because Nobunaga, a self-admitted otaku hasn't been subjected to the kind of treatment that I've been receiving, and on the contrary, most people actually think of him as the school mascot because of his friendliness and interesting characteristics. Some people really like him too (because he looks like a bishounen).
I can only draw one conclusion from the facts at my disposal.
"...In other words, I'm being subjected to this treatment because of who I am?"
I was felt a little depressed at that deduction. Sob, sob, just what did I do to deserve this...
But, it won't carry on like this forever, right?
As the saying goes, no rumor ever goes on for more than a month, so hopefully, everyone will forget about me after a while. Not thinking too deeply into things is one of my weak points, but conversely, it's also one of my good points.
I threw the rest of the letters into the furnace.
To be honest, I was more worried about Haruka. I intended to go to the Nogizaka residence immediately after burning all the hate mail.
But just as I was rushing towards the school gate...
"Hey, Ayase-kun! It must be hard to have to throw the rubbish again today right!"
A guy with slightly long brown-dyed hair sneered as he blocked my path.
...Who is this guy?
Even though this is the first time I've seen this person, but for no reason, I really didn't like him. Just like how most girls instinctively hate cockroaches, I instinctively disliked this guy.
"Ah, where are my manners. I'm Sasaoka Shyuuto."
He smiled cynically as he nodded his head.
I've heard that name before.
He's the ace of the basketball team, and had been rejected by Haruka before (I bet he has gone for plastic surgery before). Because he's a little weird and is a chronic skirt-chaser, he's the most famous year 3 senpai in the school, and also the person that most people didn't want to be connected to.
"...And what can I do for you, Sasaoka-senpai?"
I was very sure that it won't be anything good, but I still asked politely.
"Nothing much, I just want to get a good look at the otaku who's sticking to Haruka-san like a parasite."
"...You really have a lot of free time."
Just as I had expected.
How is it that I'm never able to guess any questions correctly in exams, but have a 100% success rate in guessing such random things? After sighing to myself for my bad luck, I looked straight at Sasaoka.
"...I think you've seen enough. Can I go now? Unlike you, I actually have something to do."
I pushed Sasaoka away as I tried to go around him, but Sasaoka continued to give that cynical smile of his that made me want to punch him in the face and continued to block my way.
"...Just what do you want?"
"Hang on, I just want to tell you something."
"Get to the point!"
I want to get this over with within 3 seconds.
"It's simple...Do not harass Haruka-san anymore! You make me sick! I don't want to see someone who gets excited when looking at figurines of strange girls to get close to Haruka-san. In other words, Haruka-san's too pitiful to have someone like you around her!"
In actual fact, Haruka's the one who'll get really excited when looking at figurines of strange girls. Oh well, why am I even wasting my time listening to this person's incessant babbling.
"That's it? Then I'm going."
This person's really annoying.
"You should have heard what I've just said right? I want you to swear that you will never go near Haruka-san ever again!"
"I won't do it."
"It's good that you understand...Eh? Hang on, you refused to do it..."
"That's right, because I don't have to listen to your mindless rambling."
I would have thought that this much was obvious.
Probably because my answer was extremely unsatisfactory, Sasaoka took a step back, the expression on his face the mirror-image of the prime minister who has just failed to assassinate the king.
"Hmph, hmph, alright then, I'll let you go today, since you'll soon be dumped by Haruka-san anyway, because you're an otaku!"
He spat at me.
Oh well, I should get away from this place as quickly as possible.
Just when I finally got rid of Sasaoka and got to the school gate...
Mika was standing right in front of the school gate.
She had her hands on her hips with her legs apart as she glared at me. Whoa! Just what did I do to make her so angry?
"Onii-chan, just what did you do to onee-chan!"
What's with that question!
"How can just assume that I'm the reason for this incident!"
But Mika conpletely ignored my protests.
"Because you're the only person who can make onee-chan so miserable! Onii-chan, did you force onee-chan into some kind of weird cosplay?"
Mika shouted at the top of her voice while blushing furiously...I'm begging you, there're students everywhere because school just ended, so please don't shout 'weird cosplay' in front of so many people!
"Did you force her to cosplay as a sexy nurse, or a bunny girl, or did you force her to wear nothing but an apron..."
Mika started to become more specific.
Just as I feared, looks of disgust were shot at me from every direction, now they really think of me as a pervert...Well, not like I can do anything about it, so I'll just let them think whatever they want to think!
"Hey, it's not because of me that Haruka's like this."
Mika gave me a suspicious look in response to my explanation.
"You're lying! Why else would onee-chan become like this? She's locked herself in her room every since she came home three days ago, and she hasn't eaten at all! And she keeps playing pieces like 'Funeral March', and 'Dance of Death' on the piano..."
That's really scary.
"We even heard onee-chan crying in the middle of the night...This is like what happened when she was in middle school..."
Mika's face suddenly lit up as she seemed to have understood something.
"...Don't tell me onee-chan's secret has been exposed?"
Mika lifted her head to look at me as she waited for the answer.
"Nope, it was almost exposed, but nothing happened in the end."
"Hmm...Maybe because Haruka mistakenly thought that her secret had been exposed. From what you've said, I guess being sick isn't the real reason for Haruka's absence from school."
Mika nodded her head cautiously.
"Onee-chan said that she wasn't feeling well, but she's definitely lying. Father and mother haven't really given it much thought , but...onee-chan's acting exactly the same way as that time, Hazuki-san's very worried about her too."
"You mentioned 'that time'?"
For someone like Mika to stutter, it must be something really serious.
"You don't have to force yourself to tell me..."
"...It's not like that."
"But if you don't mind, I would like to hear it, because this is probably related to how Haruka is acting now."
Mika lowered her head as she thought about it.
"...You're right. Mm, I guess onii-chan should know about it."
She lifted up her head again after seeming to break free of some unseen restriction.
Once again, I had come to the Nogizaka residence.
After spending twenty minutes passing through a door that was as imposing as the Arc de Triomphe, walking through a courtyard that was bigger than a forest garden, and making our way through the mazelike interior of the Nogizaka mansion, I finally reached the door to Haruka's room.
"Haruka-sama, Yuuto-sama is here to see you."
Hazuki-san knocked on the door, only garnering a muffled squeal in response.
"Onee-chan, onii-chan bought cake from the Ginkadou, let's eat it together!"
Thump, thump, we heard a sound that suggested that the occupant of the room was locked in a struggle between her feelings and temptation.
The cake that I was currently holding in my right hand (only ten pieces are sold a day), seems to be something that Haruka really likes to eat, so much so that she eats it once every three days. For someone who eats so much cakes and other desserts, it's a wonder that Haruka can maintain that figure of hers.
"...She didn't come out."
After that instance of movement, the room behind the door fell silent again.
Mika wrapped her arms around herself as her head leaned to one side, thinking about our next move.
"Hmm, I think onee-chan's being sorely tempted by the combination of onii-chan and the cake, so let's just start our tea party here! Hazuki-san, could you prepare what we need?"
Hazuki-san immediately set up a simple foldable table that she seemed to have pulled out of nowhere, and placed a table cloth on it before pulling out four sets of chairs (again, out of nowhere), after which she started to set up the tea cups......Wait a minute! Where did she get all the equipment from? Weren't both her hands completely empty just a moment ago?
The maid-san replied me nochalantly after I asked her about it. What kind of corporate secret it this...Could it be possible that the pockets of their maid uniform are linked to the fourth dimension?
"Which is why..."
"...I get it."
I gave up. It'll probaby be better for me to just shut up and sit on the chair (that came out of nowhere)!
The maid-san held up the tea-pot and looked at us.
"Would Nuwara Eliya be alright?"
"I'm not a picky tea-drinker like onee-chan, so I'm alright with anything."
"...Same for the cup on the right."
If Mika hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't even know that 'Nuwara Eliya' is the name of a tea.
And just like this, our tea party outside Haruka's room (in the corridor) began.
"Ah, this smells so good!"
"It's Sachertorte. Would you like me to cut it for you?"
Hazuki-san divided the cake with an experienced hand as the smell of chocolate immediately burst out into the surroundings. It's no wonder that Haruka likes to eat this, it looks really tempting.
Suddenly, I heard a something behind me.
I looked back and saw Haruka looking at us through a gap in the door. The moment our eyes met, Haruka hurriedly closed the door again...Was she looking at the cake?
(This is good, we've successfully piqued her interest.)
Mika whispered to me...Is it really like this?
(Do you think I should take out the candied fruits as well?)
(Good idea, onee-chan likes to eat candied fruits too.)
Hazuki-san left the corridor.
(Sorry to keep you waiting.)
In the blink of an eye, she was back with a tray of candied fruits that gave off a special scent.
(These candied fruits are first boiled together with sugar before it is mixed together with rum.)
Hazuki-san explained how the candied fruits were made to us. I see, that special scent comes from the rum.
The door opened again. Haruka stuck her head out again as she couldn't resist the temptation of the candied fruits, but the moment she saw me looking, she quickly closed the door again.
But her actions were really cute.
(Hmm, only a little more to go!)
(Then I shall go bring out the gingerbread.)
But in the end, despite sticking her head out several times, Haruka still refused to come out.
"Onee-chan, I've had enough of this!"
Probably because she had run out of things to tempt Haruka with, Mika was a little impatient...
"Fine! Since it has come to this..."
Mika breathed in deeply.
"If you still refuse to come out, the I'll take both the cake and onii-chan! Alright, onii-chan!"
"Huh, ah, hey!"
I shouted because Mika suddenly launched herself into my arms. Ah, she's so soft.
Don't...Don't rub my face like that!
"Why don't you dump onee-chan and go out with me! Let's go on a date, just the two of us, let's go to Akihabara."
"Wa...Wait a minute!"
Just as I was desperately tring to peel Mika off of me, there was a loud bang from the other side of the door.
And immediately after that, Haruka pushed the door open with tremendous force as she came out of the room with her arms flailing.
"On...Only Yuuto-san's off limits! I can let go of everything else, but I won't let go of Yuuto-san! I...I'm the only one who can go to Akihabara with Yuuto-san!"
Hazuki-san and I were stunned speechless, while Mika laughed happily.
Finally realizing the meaning behind what she had blurted out, Haruka's face suddenly blushed the shade of a litmus paper's reaction to acid.
"I...What did I say...I...I'm sorry!"
The door slammed shut with a bang, afterwhich we heard the clicking of the normal lock and the anti-theft lock (a high-tech lock commonly used in high-class hotels).
"Hmm, that didn't go as well as I thought it would..."
"On the contrary, I thought it worked quite well..."
"Right, hmm, onii-chan's such a pervert~"
"...You're like a gigolo!"
The two of them (especially the maid-san standing behind us) started to go off-topic.
And it's back to square one. No, not square one, we might even be at square minus three, minus four.
"...Right now, the only thing we can do is to break in. Haruka-sama hasn't eaten for the past three days, I'm worried that she's going to collapse."
The maid-san stepped forward.
"You're right, but how do we break into Haruka's room?"
The anti-theft locks are almost unbreakable.
"By using this."
A giant blue chainsaw that the serial killers in horror movies use suddenly appeared in the maid-san's hands. Just where did she pull that out from...
"This thing is a little dangerous, so please step back."
The chainsaw started to shake dangerously as it was started up, Hazuki-san's really planning to use this!
"Hand on, maybe I should try talking to Haruka."
I stopped Hazuki-san just as she was going to slice the door into half with her chainsaw (her solution's definitely not going to help).
Actually, this problem should be solved the moment I tell Haruka that I've helped her cover up. Because from what Mika told me, I'm thinking the main reason for Haruka's behaviour is because she thinks that her secret has been exposed.
Which is why the situation would probably change for the better as long as I clear up the misunderstanding, right?
"Please let me try."
At this this solution's more orthodox than using the chainsaw!
"I understand, we'll leave this to you them."
"Good luck, onii-chan!"
Mika and Hazuki-san wished me luck before I knocked softly on Haruka's door.
"Haruka, please open the door, I want to talk to you about what happened that day."
Haruka's room was completely silent.
"Actually, it's not so bad. Look, here's the cake that you love to eat!"
Haruka's room remained silent.
"If you don't open up, Hazuki-san says she's going to take your door down with a chainsaw."
"...You didn't need to mention that."
The maid-san who was standing behind me retorted. What, you did intend to do it didn't you?
"So would you please open the door?"
Just when I was going to repeat my question, I felt some movement on the other side of the door. After a little while...
"...I understand, please come in."
Haruka replied me softly.
Haruka hugged her knees on her luxurious four poster bed.
There was a teddy bear and some magazines beside her.
After confirming that I was the only one coming in, Haruka blushed as she closed her bloodshot eyes.
"...I'm really sorry for saying something like that just now..."
"Ah, don't worry about it."
About what Haruka just said, I instinctively thought that it would be better not to as Haruka what she really meant. Even though I really wanted to know, but...
"You've been absent from school for three days...I'm very worried about you."
"No, I'm not blaming you or anything..."
Seeing Haruka lowering her head like a puppy who has just been scolded by its master, I felt rather unhappy as well, since it looks like I'm bullying Haruka.
"Anyway, everything's alright now."
"Your secret hasn't been exposed to everyone, my cover-up after you ran off probably worked I guess."
Haruka lifted up her head.
"That's right, so you don't have to worry about anything."
"Than...Thank you. But, how did you cover up my secret under those circumstances..."
That situation was really quite difficult...
After I told Haruka what I had done after she ran off (third-grade acting and cheesy lines included), Haruka's facial expression changed drastically.
"So you're saying that everyone thinks that you're the owner of that magazine?"
"How...How can it be..."
Haruka had a very strange expression on her face.
"Hmm? What's wrong?"
"But...Yuuto-san, other people will be giving you strange looks..."
Ah, I see what Haruka's worried about now. She's right, I have been harassed recently due to that incident (like the hate mail, and Sasaoka). But compared to the recent events in the world, this is nothing. Rather than seeing how upset and depressed Haruka is, I would rather endure any kind of harrassment...This is strange, I've never felt this way towards anyone before.
"Please don't worry about that, I'll be happy as long as you're alright."
I really feel that way, but...
Haruka didn't seem to feel the same way.
"Yuuto-san, you don't understand, you don't understand what this is really about. You don't know how the people around you will treat you once they find out that you have an interest that's different from everyone else..."
Large tears started to roll around in Haruka's eyes.
"No...Definitely not...I do not want you to have the same experience that I did."
"...That...That kind of thing....I've already..."
Haruka buried her head in her knees as her shoulders trembled. After a while, she looked up at me after seeming to come to an important decision.
"...Yuuto, I have something to tell you. You...Would you be willing to listen to me?"
The moment Haruka started to talk, I had a feeling that the only thing that she could possibly be telling me at this time, was the very thing that Mika had just told me!
Haruka started to talk softly. Just as I expected.
"...This happened when I was still in middle school."
This is basically what I understood from what both Haruka and Mika told me.
In short, a similar incident happened when Haruka was in middle school.
I'm not very sure about the exact details, but it's something along the lines of Haruka stepping on a milk bottle on a certain afternoon in class and falling down, afterwhich the manga that she had on her (the first volume of <<The Shy Triangle>>) was dropped in front of all her classmates...Just thinking about how the situation must have been like made me a little afraid.
And just like that, Haruka's secret was exposed.
When Haruka was in middle school, she was also extremely popular, which means that her special hobby soon became the talk of the school. From then on, the atmosphere around Haruka changed.
Although she wasn't bullied or insulted, the attitude of Haruka's classmates and the way they looked at her completely changed. Even the classmates whom Haruka had thought of as her good friends started to keep their distance from her. At that time, Haruka was like a politician who had just lost an election.
According to Mika, Haruka's behaviour at that time was extremely unsettling.
"Onee-chan was extremely depressed at that time, so much so that it was painful to even look at her. The talkative and cheerful onee-chan that I had once known slowly built up a wall between her and the outside world, and rarely smiled...She also cried frequently by herself at night."
To change the situation, Mika and Hazuki-san tried many solutions, but because a school is a closed-society, as outsiders, the two of them were unable to do anything.
In the end, the situation persisted all the way until Haruka graduated from middle school. Which means that Haruka ended her middle school life on an extremely bad note.
"Onee-chan had originally planned to continue studying in the high school section of the Seijyukan Girls School, but...Because of that incident, she had no choice but to transfer to Hakujō Academy. Since there's quite a bit of distance between the Seijyukan Girls School and Hakujo Academy, so no one would know about onee-chan's hobby."
The Seijyukan Girls School has a full nineteen-year educational system, that goes all the way from kindergarden to university, with the aim of grooming true ladies (rumour has it that almost 80% of the students in the school uses honorifics in their daily speech; It is also rumoured that you can throw a pebble into a crowd of Seijyukan Girls School students and definitely hit the daughter of a company president...The school's canteen also provides french crusine), an extremely famous school in our district. Now that I think of it, it is a little strange for someone like Haruka to study at a school like Hakujo Academy, but after hearing about that incident, I completely understand this arrangement.
"Onee-chan's extremely afraid of the possibility of her secret being exposed, and I should think that it is because of the psychological scars from that bad experience that onee-chan's acting like this now. Onii-chan, I'm placing my trust in you because you're the only person I know of who doesn't shun her in any way after knowing of her secret."
After finishing her exposition, Haruka wiped off the tears that were rolling down her cheeks.
"...That's how bad it can get. If everyone thinks that you're the owner of the megazine, they'll all look at you differently, and will keep their distance from you."
It must be painful to recall such a bad experience, but Haruka stubbornly forced the words out of her mouth.
"I...don't want Yuuto-san to be like me..."
"It won't be like that."
I understand what Haruka meant, but I didn't think that everyone will react like that. Maybe otakus are strange people in the eyes of the Seijyukan Girls School ladies, but...in normal schools, one in ten students probably don't mind otakus don't they?
Haruka shook her head in response to my reasoning.
"You may be right, but you don't have to do this for my sake, because it's my fault in the first place...I should be the one getting ostracized..."
"Please don't say that."
Haruka looked at me with wide eyes.
"The friends that leave me because of this can't be counted as real friends, because even without this incident, I probably won't be able to get along well with them. I can't say that it'll be good if these people stop being friends with me, but...even if you're upset about it, you can't change things, can you?"
At least this is what I thought.
If a certain person changes the way he interacts with me based purely on the fact that I'm an otaku, it's not like I can do anything about it, even if that person is my friend.
Haruka held her hands together tightly.
"But...It's very painful to be ostracized. I couldn't take it, and even now, I don't think I can. To be completely alone...I hate this feeling, and I believe that everyone would hate this feeling as well..."
She looked away painfully.
Hmm...Haruka's being rather pessimistic here. Perhaps it's normal for her to think in this way, but I still wish that she can be liberated from the shadow cast over her by that experience.
Which is why I replied,
"I don't think I'll be completely alone!"
Haruka looked up at me.
"Haruka, if I had a weird hobby, would you leave my side?"
"Of course not, I like Yuuto-san, so I will not leave you because of something like that."
I was thinking about whether the 'like' that I heard contained any special meaning in it.
"That is to say, even if everyone leaves me, I will still have you!"
Seeing that Haruka still didn't get it, I decided to continue, since these are the things that I really wanted to say to her.
"Anyway...It's the same for me. Even if the entire world leaves you, I will stand beside you, no matter what the opposition is, no matter what kind of harrassment I have to endure, I will support you. This is my promise to you."
I can say this without any hesitation.
Even if the same thing happens again, or if Haruka makes a mistake that causes her hobby to be exposed to the school (...which is very possible), I will stand on her side. Even if everyone will look at me differently, even if vicious rumours are spread about me, I don't think I will ever regret my choice.
Because I am the only one who knows about Haruka's secret, because I have a resposibility to protect her secret, because Mika had requested me to protect Haruka. Anyway, I had a lot of reasons.
But, the main reason that pushed me to make this decision was very simple.
I like Haruka. I like the Haruka who looks perfect on the surface, but is actually a crybaby, an airhead, an innocent, albeit a little quirky daughter of a rich family whom I just can't bear to leave alone.
"This is why you won't be alone, Haruka. No matter what happens, I will never leave you."
...What am I saying! Am I not saying things that sound like a love confession? What I'm saying now sounds like how a guy would say 'I want to see the reflection of the fireworks in your eyes' to a girl when they're watching fireworks.
Haruka was looked extremely moved as her big eyes teared up again.
"I...I've always been hoping for someone who would say something like that for me. I've always wanted someone to tell me that I'm not alone, that no matter what happens, I won't be alone."
Unable to hold it in any longer, tears started to roll down Haruka's cheeks. I wanted to take out my handkerchief to wipe her tears away before realizing that the handkerchief I had on me wasn't high-class enough. Sigh, I'm so useless.
"Umm...Could I ask you for something?"
"Would you lend me your chest to cry on?"
Haruka nodded as she buried her head into my chest, sobbing softly. I don't understand the meaning of those tears, but nevertheless, I wrapped my arms around Haruka tightly.
After a while, Haruka finally stopped sobbing and lifted up her head as she shyly said to me, her eyes red and swollen from crying.
"...Please stay by my side forever."
I answered her with another hug. I haven't noticed until now, but the soft, sweet smell of Haruka's hair seems to have a calming effect on people. I really want to stroke her lush, long hair...
"...I'm very sorry for spoiling the atmosphere."
Suddenly, we realized that the maid-san was standing right behind us.
Upon hearing the maid-san's words, Haruka and I pushed away from each other like two like magnetic poles.
"...Do I look that scary?"
The maid-san asked with a surprised expression on her face. But the problem is, when did she enter the room? The door might not have been locked, but it's impossible that we didn't hear the sound of the door opening or the footsteps of the maid-san!
"The two of you were probably oblivious to the outside world during your intimate moment right?"
Mika, who had also entered the room without us noticing, teased us from behind Hazuki-san. There's definitely a problem with these two people...
"Now that the problem has been solved, Haruka-sama, please eat something. You must be hungry after not eating for three days."
"Ah, now that you mention it..."
Haruka's stomach also seemed to have finally remembered that it was hungry, as it growled cutely.
Haruka blushed a deep shade of red.
Looking at Haruka, I suddenly felt that everything about the daughter of a rich family is good......even the sound of their stomach growling sounds high-class!
After yet another week.
I met Haruka on my way to school.
"Good morning, Haruka."
"Good morning, it's a really nice morning today isn't it."
"Yes it is, but I'm still feeling a little sleepy."
"No that you mention it, you really look like a panda with the dark rings around your eyes."
Haruka's laughter was like the tinkling of wind chimes as I walked to school together with her, with a few of our schoolmates also walking to school around us.
Is it just me or have I been running into Haruka while walking to school a lot more often recently?
"Just two more days and the summer holidays will finally be here."
Haruka laughed happily.
Ever since that day, Haruka returned to her normal, energetic self (with the aura befitting a daughter of a rich family), the expression on her face devoid of any clues that would point to how upset she had been merely a week ago.
"I'm really looking forward to the summer holidays. Ah, right, do you still remember what you promised me the last time?"
"Of course I do."
"Good, I think that it'll probably be in the middle of August..."
All in all, things are going well.
Through that incident (the one where Haruka's secret was almost exposed), even though Haruka still hasn't been able to fully let go of her bad memories, but--at least she has learnt how to face up to that bad experience. On the other hand, it also turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the distance between Haruka and I have been shortened by a lot.
Under the current circumstances, only one problem was left unsolved.
"Good morning, Haruka-san."
Suddenly, a tall figure blocked our path.
"Haruka-san, walking together with this otaku is an insult to your status."
It was Sasaoka.
"This fellow is a pervert who'll get excited upon seeing miniature figurines! Anyway, he's neither tall nor handsome, he's not very clever, and he's not good at sports. But the worst part is still the fact that he's a pervert who gets excited upon seeing figurines. Haruka-san, I find it hard to believe that you have not heard all the rumours about this fellow."
He smiled cynically, as he glared at me.
This was the problem.
The unsolved problem that I was talking about is the fact that the rumours about me (the thing that Sasaoka is still talking about) still have not dissipated yet. Those rumours were like an unkillable mosquito as it stubbornly survived for ten days (and still continues to survive).
Even though I'm used to such things no one would feel happy at being insulted by the people around him everyday.
Sasaoka ignored the unhappy expression on my face and continued,
"And that's not the end of it! In bringing such a low-class magazine to school, you've proven that you're beyond redemption!"
This fellow was really pushing the limit.
"This fellow's completely useless. Haruka-san, I really do not understand why you persist in being friends with someone like him. Ah, could it be that he's blackmailing you? If that is really the case, just say the word and I will take care of it for you. I am equipped with grade 2 shaolin henpo..."
"...Please do not continue saying such things."
Haruka cut Sasaoka off.
"Yuuto-san is an extremely good person. He's kind, caring, and one of the people I really respect. It's such a pity that you're insulting him like this, so I would really appreciate it if you were to stop now."
Sasaoka didn't know how to respond to Haruka's abnormal behaviour. The other students around us also stopped in their tracks, curious as to what was happening. Could it be that...Haruka's angry?
"If you have nothing else to say, then please excuse us...Let's go, Yuuto-san."
Just as Haruka grabbed my hand to walk away...
"Wa...Wait a minute! What do you mean by that...Just what is so good about this otaku? Please explain yourself! Hey! Haruka-san!"
Sasaoka grabbed on tightly to Haruka's other hand. Hmm...It seems like someone who calls himself a staunch supporter of feminism like Sasaoka is that much of a feminist himself when he's angry. If I don't do something right now, things might turn nasty.
"Hey, you're really going overboard here..."
Just as I was about to smash Sasaoka's face in with a broom I spotted near our position (probably left there by the people in the town's cleaning squad)...
Sasaoka's body flew into the air right in front of me.
The laws of physics clearly dictate that such a long duration of hangtime is impossible, but Sasaoka did fly towards the sky like a dragonfly bursting out from the surface of the pond. Wow...And then after he flipped a full circle in the air, Sasaoka crashed into the tree that was about ten inches away from Haruka and I before dropping straight down onto the ground. I could swear that I heard Sasaoka groan like a frog who's going to die any moment.
And then, the launchpad of Sasaoka's body...Haruka, who standing in some martial arts pose beside me. I glanced at her, managing to catch a glimpse of something white under the billowing folds of her skirt (...), could this be... No, now's not the time to be fantasizing like a perverted middle-aged man.
The atmosphere around us was deathly silent.
Everyone around us looked at Sasaoka, who was rolling around on the ground in agony, with utter disbelief.
To be honest, I couldn't believe my eyes either.
Could it really be...Haruka who threw him?
Haruka ignored everyone around her (including me), as she walked over to Sasaoka, who looked like crab with a stroke as he foamed at the mouth (he seemed to be conscious, but just barely), and smiled as she said,
"Please don't insult Yuuto-san like that."
"And...The low-class magazine that you were talking about is actually mine. So if you're unhappy about it, please talk to me."
I felt as though a fire-breathing dragon was roaring in anger behind Haruka.
Under the pressure of the power hidden behind Haruka's smile, Sasaoka didn't dare to say anything. No, or maybe he's just too badly injured to be able to talk?
"Yuuto-san, let's go, we're almost late."
I looked around to see that Haruka had reverted to her usual angelic smile.
...Right, I suddenly remembered that Haruka had a teacher's license in some ancient style of martial arts, which explains the inhuman way with which she threw Sasaoka...
Haruka looked at me worriedly.
"...Ah, I'm alright!"
Oh well, I don't think I should think about this anymore, it's nothing to worry about (even though I'm really worried). In the face of Haruka's innocent smile, this is nothing. I'm willing to accept anything if it means that I never need to see Haruka cry ever again.
But on the other hand, I made a mental note to myself after looking at how Sasaoka was crawling on the ground like a zombie.
Never do anything to make Haruka angry!
After what Haruka did to him, Sasaoka became noticeably quiter, and scurried like a rat before a cat whenever he saw Haruka or me. I think I can understand his feelings perfectly.
At the same time, even the vicious rumours about me had disappeared. As for the reason--I think it's obvious enough! Because there were a few members of the art club at the scene of the incident as well...something that made me aware of just how influential Haruka is in the school.
In short, every single problem has been solved.
I was finally able to return to the life that I had left behind for two weeks.
Which is to say that the members of Haruka's fan club still looked at me with the eyes of someone looking at the person who murdered their father, and will also send me the occasional 'Stay away from Haruka-sama! You pig!' warning. But I no longer cared about such things, because no matter what they do, it is an unshakable fact that my relationship with Haruka has become much closer. Hmm, but no matter what, it'll be better if I keep a low profile if I don't want to be dragged up to the roof of the school building to be candy-wrapped.
--That was my plan, but...
"If you're alright with it, would you like to eat lunch together?"
--To be honest, it's not easy to keep a low profile.
Haruka waved at me as she smiled happily.
It was lunchtime in school, and we were in class. Recently, Haruka has been talking to me more enthusiastically than before. I'm extremely happy that she trusts me so much, but as they say, there're always two sides to a coin.
In other words...
There'll sure be quite a number of students in the classroom as well, which means that the moment the 'Nuit Étoile' does something, she'll naturally become the centre of attention.
"Ayase, looks like you've been very friendly with Haruka-sama recently, eh?"
"You're eating lunch together with Haruka-sama? Don't get too full of yourself!"
To tell the truth, many of my classmates are also members of Haruka's fan club (and they all belong to the more reactionary faction).
"Would you like to go for a round of wrap-the-Ayase on the rooftop?"
"Burying him in the garden as fertilizer for the flowers would be good too!"
"It's more exciting to dip him upside-down into the school swimming pool!"
...I should be able to welcome my summer holidays in relative safety, right?
...No, I seriously doubt that...
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