Chapter 1: Number one and number two

Number one and number two

The Mystery Club room is located at the end of the second floor of the old school building. It was formerly used as a reception room for visitors, so it has a hot water kettle, a refrigerator, an air conditioner and a set of sofas.

It is a very comfortable space. Next to it, there is a music room, where you can always hear the sound of the piano after class. Some students use it for private practice. 

—Who is the most popular girl in our school?

Said Shota Maki, the student council president. 

It was after school, in the club room. I was relaxing on the couch as usual, listening to the sound of the piano playing next to me, when suddenly he came in, uttering those words.

—If it’s popularity we’re talking about, it would have to be Hikari Tachibana and Akane Hayasaka. 

—I see.

—Which one do you like best, Kirishima?

—It’s been a long time since you last showed your face around here. Why do you ask?

—You like Tachibana, don’t you?

That’s right. I once told this man about a girl I liked… You could say that Tachibana-san is my favorite. And my second favorite is Hayasaka—san. I can still remember the feeling of our hands touching for the first time.

—You are the type of person who likes super cars. Ferrari, Lamborghini and other high-end cars.

—What’s that got to do with it?

—Because Hikari Tachibana is like that. She has beautiful skin, she’s attractive, and her expression is so neutral that she doesn’t show any kind of emotion. 

She has long hair, is tall and slim, her body is like that of a model, and she always has a relaxed attitude and no expression on her face. She is often alone, and the temperature seems to drop when you are by her side.

—On the other hand, Hayasaka is a good quality Japanese car.

—That was very rude. 

—You are wrong. My goal is to marry Hayasaka. She seems to be a homely girl, and she’s very innocent. Besides being an honor student, she will never be able to cheat on me. The number of boys who have confessed to her and have been rejected is greater than that of Tachibana, so she is someone trustworthy. 

—Don’t get carried away by public image alone. 

Hayasaka-san is a very nice girl and well-liked by everyone. And when she is the center of attention, she always smiles a little as if she is in trouble. 

But despite her modest demeanor, there is one hidden feature: she has a body that would destroy your instincts in a matter of seconds. In other words, she has killer breasts and legs that could blow your mind.

—However, I will never tell her.

—Why aren’t you going to tell her?

—Because if she thinks I’m looking at her with erotic eyes, my chances of being with her will die.

—I think she already knows that.

—Of course not. She’s a high-class girl. She has no such impure thoughts. 

Everyone sees her as an icon of purity and seriousness. No matter how popular and good looking a girl is, there will never be someone who does not have impure thoughts. 

And at that moment I remembered what Hayasaka-san had told me, “I’m not a good girl.” She is trapped by an image that was created by her environment. 

—Maki, did it ever cross your mind that Hayasaka-san is actually an ordinary girl?

She is just an ordinary person who wants to walk hand in hand with the guy she likes, as well as spend time with him. Even Tachibana-san might have the same thought. 

As those thoughts invaded my head, I heard a change in the melody of the piano in the music room next door. 

—Do you think the girl I like is someone ordinary?

—It’s possible, you shouldn’t focus on the outside.

—You’re right. But, even if there was such a possibility, I wouldn’t know unless we were a couple.

But Hayasaka-san and Maki are not a very likely couple. Is it okay for them to go out together?

—What about you? Is there a chance you could be with Tachibana?

—Zero chance. But I don’t think it’s complicated either.

—Why?

—It’s a common thing that you can’t be with the person you love the most. Some people are liked by everyone, and others are very popular. But only one person gets to have a relationship with that person they want. Which means everyone else will be heartbroken. 

—You are very cynical.

—I’m just being realistic.

Pure love is an illusion. In reality, we deceive ourselves and deceive others into falling in love.

—You have a lot of resentment towards love.

—Did you come all the way here to talk to me about love?

—No. I’m here to invite you to Nozaki’s karaoke party.

—Hey, but I’m a terrible singer. 

—It doesn’t matter. We’ll just be there for support. Come on, that kid is desperate. We have to help him. 

—Well, that’s fine.

I replied sharply as I looked at the clock.

—Well, I have some things to do, so I’d better get going.

—Hey, you’re not going to listen till the end?

Maki points to the music room next door. 

—I have to visit a friend who has a cold.

—I see.

But even so, Maki continues to talk. 

—Your life is just like that American novel. The boy who looks at the light of the mansion where his dream girl lives while drinking alcohol on the shore of the lake that separates them.

—The Great Gatsby.

—Exactly.

—I’m not as sentimental as Jay Gatsby.

—No, but still, every day you hear the piano playing of the girl you like through this wall that separates you.

He is right. The person who practices the piano is Tachinaba-san. The girl I want the most in my life.

—Just so you know, I was the first one in this room. 

—Were you expecting something?

—Not really.

To be honest, Maki is right.

—Being with Tachibana is impossible.

—I know, she has a boyfriend. 

***

My attraction to Hayasaka-san is the same as her attraction to me. We like each other as lovers, but without prioritizing our relationship as official boyfriend and girlfriend.

At the beginning of the summer we discovered that we had a great connection, so we went with it. And that’s where our adventure began. We are not as different as an ordinary couple, except for the fact that we already have someone else we love more. 

That’s why I’m so excited to hold her hand, and if she has a cold, it gives me reason to go visit her.

—Hello, sorry to bother you.

I was standing in front of the door of Hayasaka-san’s house. And it was she herself in person who greeted me.

—Why aren’t you lying down?

—Because I’m home alone.

—Huh?

—Come on in.

Everything happened so naturally. Hayasaka-san turned her back to me as if she didn’t care, and I entered the place without even thinking about it.

When I took off my shoes, I was momentarily taken aback. 

Hayasaka-san is wearing a hoodie over her pajamas, as if the cold is affecting her too much. She looks too sexy, though, perhaps because her outfit is too tight and accentuates the lines of her body. 

I almost wondered what would happen if I hugged her from behind, but quickly dismissed the thought. I’m sure she wouldn’t like it if I did something like that with her in such a delicate state. 

—This is my room.

Hayasaka—san showed me her room. It was a very clean and tidy place. The pencil case and pencils on her desk were colorful and very feminine.

—Here, I brought you a drink and a yogurt.

—Thank you. You can sit there.

She sits on the floor with me and swallows half a bottle of the energy drink I brought. She still had a fever and her face was burning.

—I’m sorry for coming so suddenly, I’d better go and come back when you’re not alone.

—No, I’m glad you’re here, Kirishima-kun. I want to talk to you more.

—But you’re not in good shape.

—Well, I can lie down on the bed. So don’t go yet, let’s talk some more.

Hayasaka-san lies down on the bed and covers her head with the blanket. I told her what happened at school today and she smiled happily as she listened to my words. I didn’t tell her about the conversation I had with Maki after school, just that I was invited to karaoke.

—I want to go with you.

—What?

Nozaki is our classmate, he doesn’t have enough courage to approach the girl he likes, so he decided to invite everyone to a kind of “party” as a front to conquer that person.

—Why, Hayasaka-san?

—I received the invitation as well. The number of people is getting quite large. I didn’t know Kirishima-kun was going, so I said I would go when I got over my cold.

—I see, so he’s gathering people at random.

—We have to pretend that we don’t know each other.

—Right. If I get along with Hayasaka-san, I’ll earn the hatred of all the boys.

—No, I don’t mean it.

Hayasaka-san showed me her smartphone screen, opened the group chat where all the guests were, and pointed to an icon.

—A bear? 

—You don’t know what it is?

—I don’t know anyone who has a bear.

—Unlike the icon, she is a very beautiful person. A very luxurious and special girl.

—It can’t be…

—Yes. This is the icon of Tachibana-san.

Hayasaka-san looks at me and says with her usual annoyed smile.

—Should I help Kirishima-kun get along with Tachibana-san?

—You don’t have to.

—That’s fine. I really like you, Kirishima-kun. It would have been a little painful for me if you had asked me that.

Hayasaka—san was a little unsteady due to her fever, and the conversation inevitably stalled as we ran out of things to talk about.

We were alone in her room, with no one else in the house. It was very quiet and I could hear the clock ticking. I tried to get up as I said, “Well, I guess this is it. 

But before I could do anything, Hayasaka-san stopped me.

—Hey, Kirishima-kun. Come here. 

She said as she turned the sheet over.

—Let’s try the simple contact effect.

Yesterday she seemed so excited about holding hands. She even seemed to wish that the street would never end.

—Hayasaka-san, do you want me to sleep with you?

—I thought it was obvious.

I was afraid that she would say those words with such seriousness.

—I want to hold your hand. Let’s get under the covers together.

I don’t know if this is a temporary loss of reason due to the fever, or if this is really Hayasaka-san behind the image of her purity and innocence.

—You have a high fever, you are not rational right now. 

—No, you’re wrong.

—I am telling the truth. A person’s ability to think is reduced when he has a fever. The frontal lobe of the brain has difficulty functioning. 

—You’re wrong, I’m perfectly rational.

—And I don’t have to get under the sheet with you. I can hold your hand from the outside.

—I don’t think that’s good for you, Kirishima-kun.

Hayasaka-san makes an angry face. But she also looks like she’s having a little fun.

—Kirishima-kun won’t get under the covers with me?

—It’s not that I don’t want to, but I have a feeling that holding hands won’t be enough.

—I… I wouldn’t mind.

—Hayasaka-san, you have to calm down, this is not…

—Isn’t that what people think when they’re in love? If I’m a good girl, I should follow the proper order of a relationship. But Kirishima-kun said we could be together without being bound by those things.

We are slaves to an image created by the people around us. Some people have dreams, others want to have a lot of friends, and others want to make a living doing something they are passionate about. But when you feel you have to live up to everyone’s expectations, it becomes painful. 

Hayasaka-san is tied to the image of what is expected of her. So we had decided that, at least in our love relationship, we would not adopt the values and image that everyone is governed by. We would do things our own way. 

—Hey, Kirishima-kun. I don’t have to be a good girl in front of you, do I?

The expression on Hayasaka-san’s face as she turned the sheets and waited for me was strangely sexy.

—Then you should at least get under the covers with me and hold my hand.

—Okay.

It’s not like I didn’t expect something to happen when I walked into a girl’s room. But why would she want me to hold her hand while she was lying on the bed? 

These thoughts entered my mind as I approached her.

Hayasaka-san was sweating a little from the heat, and I could feel the humidity and heat in the air. Her pajamas were clinging to her skin. 

—No, this is not a good idea!

I came to my senses and got out of bed. I was almost overwhelmed by the situation.

—Aaah! I was so close! 

Hayasaka-san looks disappointed. But instead of giving up, she immediately thought of something and spoke with a wry smile on her face. 

—Why don’t you think of it as practice? 

—Practice? 

—You can practice for when you are in the same bed with Tachibana—san. 

—No, such thoughts are not good, Hayasaka—san.

I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. Even though we are lovers, I don’t want to use her to fill my loneliness….

—Even if you deny it, there is a part of you that says otherwise.

Hayasaka-san continued.

—So why don’t you use me for practice? Or am I so unattractive that you don’t even want me for that?

—Not really…

I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

—I’m starting to feel cold.

—Hurry up and jump in! 

—If I don’t, my cold will get worse.

—Do it already!

—When I am dead, please weep at my grave.

—Hayasaka-san, you’re an impostor! 

I had no choice but to get into bed, because if I don’t, Hayasaka—san will be exposed and won’t be able to recover. 

—I’ll just hold your hand.

—Yes, we’ll just hold hands, I promise. 

I crawled into the futon with trepidation. Hayasaka-san looked so happy to see me. When I lay down, Hayasaka-san pulled the blanket over me. 

—You don’t have to be so distant.

—Hayasaka-san, give me your hand.

—All right.

But I couldn’t find her hand under the sheets. Meanwhile, the tip of my hand slipped into something soft.

—Kya!

Hayasaka—san made a sweet sound, and I hastily withdrew my hand while apologizing to her. All that remained in my fingertips was the taut fabric and the feeling of softness underneath. I think it was between her thighs.

—Kirishima-kun… You’re very aggressive.

Hayasaka-san looks embarrassed.

—No, no, no, I just wanted to hold your hand.

—Then grab it quickly. 

—I don’t know where your hands are.

—Here.

I moved my body to look for his hand and approached Hayasaka-san. That’s when it happened. Hayasaka-san went beyond holding hands and clung to me with all her emotions.

—You promised that we would just hold hands.

—I don’t remember saying that.

Her body was soft, warm, and slightly damp with sweat.

—I can smell Kirishima-kun.

Hayasaka-san’s breath on my chest makes my skin warm.

—I’ve always wanted to do this.

Her face is wet and her hands are clutching my uniform shirt.

—Don’t you want to hug me, Kirishima-kun?

—I don’t think it’s right.

I kept my hands out of it.

—I’m afraid I’ll lose control if I hug you.

—I don’t mind if you do.

—Hayasaka-san, you are on fire.

—When you heard that Tachibana-san was going to karaoke, you seemed a little happy.

—Sorry.

—No problem. She’s someone very beautiful, she’s the perfect girl. Although there are some things I beat her at.

—What do you mean?

—My body.

She clings to me tighter as she says these words.

—Wait…

Then she squeezes my leg between her thighs. What a complicated situation, she keeps pressing her breasts against me, and since she is wearing pajamas, she has no bra, and I can feel her bare breasts.

—Kirishima-kun is my friend, so he can do whatever he wants to me. I’m happy no matter what he does to me.

—That’s a ridiculous thing to say.

—Fufu, I’m not such an innocent girl anymore, am I?

Hayasaka-san seems to be enjoying the situation.

—But it’s okay, I’ve been a good girl at school and at home. When I dress shabbily or say things like that, people are very disappointed.

Many are not only disappointed, but also angry. They do not want their image of her to be destroyed.

—I don’t have to be a nice girl in front of Kirishima-kun, do I?

—Right.

—So let’s do bad things together.

I hugged Hayasaka-san’s body tightly, and I could feel her body so clearly, the smell of her hair, her breath, the fabric of her pajamas, everything trapped me in such a way that I never wanted to leave. She put her hand on my back and hugged me even tighter.

—I feel like I have become Kirishima-kun’s property.

—You are very emotional.

—I want you to drag me further.

I could feel her warm breath on my chest, hugging me tightly or weakly, as if she wanted to feel my touch.

—Hey Kirishima-kun, remember how I feel. Think about it when you sleep alone and feel lonely. From now on, I’ll feel lonely every night without you by my side. Because it feels so good.

—Hayasaka-san, it’s time for me to go.

—I want to do worse.

Hayasaka-san pushes me down and climbs on top of me, pressing her breasts against me. It’s clearly a deliberate act, I’m no longer embarrassed by this situation, but there’s no trace of thought in my mind.

Maybe it’s not good for me to do this while I’m in love with someone else. Maybe it’s wrong, maybe not. But we’ve made our own decision to do this. So I want to go as far as I can.

—Hey Kirishima-kun, I want to give you my cold.

—In fact, I was just thinking that I’d like to. 

—Really?

—If it’s Hayasaka-san’s cold, I don’t care. 

—But can you catch a cold just by hugging me? Isn’t there a better way to catch it? You’re smart, Kirishima-kun, think of something.

Hayasaka-san’s words make me do it without hesitation.

—With spit.

—That’s right!

—Are you sure?

—Yes.

And with that, we kissed. Hayasaka-san’s lips were soft, warm and moist.

—I think I like it. But is it the right way?

—I don’t know.

Besides, this is my first time.

—Kirishima-kun, I want more.

I kissed her again and again as we let ourselves go.

—More, more, more, more…

Finally, Hayasaka’s tongue enters my mouth.

But it stops immediately. I don’t know what to do next. Hayasaka seems embarrassed to do it herself, and despite her clear act of invitation, she stiffens and closes her eyes tightly.

Hayasaka-san’s tongue is so good, it makes me feel good. Then, awkwardly, our tongues begin to play with each other.

I pushed Hayasaka-san’s tongue back and this time I entered her mouth. Her mouth is small, warm, moist, and gently squeezed.

—Kirishima-kun, give me your saliva.

We exchange saliva. The sound of our kisses reaches our ears and makes us more and more excited.

Because we are lovers, we want to do the worst things, things that people will blame us for, things that will make them frown, things that are immoral and bad.

Before I knew it, I was putting Hayasaka-san on top of me, following my impulses. Hayasaka-san’s pajamas fell off and her breasts were bare.

We looked at each other for a moment, and then she said:

—It’s okay.

I’m sure it takes a lot of courage for a girl to say something like that. I had no choice but to go through with it, so I carefully unbuttoned her pajamas. 

But the next moment, I notice that Hayasaka-san still has a stiff expression on her face. Maybe she’s not ready for this, so I stop my hand and pull it away from his body.

—I’m sorry, I was a bit hasty. I could have been more careful, but I’ve never done this before…

But Hayasaka-san shakes her head at my words.

—It is not Kirishima-kun’s fault. I feel the same way. But…

She apologized, hiding her face behind a pillow.

—The face of the other person I like appeared in my head.

***

—It is not good to go too far.

Hayasaka-san said as she straightened her messy clothes.

—Because we like someone else?

—Yes.

After that, we sat on the bed. Just like I have Tachibana-san, Hayasaka-san has another person she loves very much.

The feeling we have for each other is noble, but we were reluctant to cross a dangerous line until we came to a conclusion about the person we wanted most in the first place.

—Maybe because we are lovers, I tend to be aggressive in some ways. If only you were the special person I want, I would be different around you. But it’s not good for me to be that way with you, not only for that person, but for you as well. 

It is true that being a lover has its advantages and its limitations.

—Let’s add some rules.

When we decided to be lovers, we made two rules. First, we must not let the other person know that we are together.

Second, when one of us is ready to be with that special person, we will end our relationship.

This means that we will give priority to this feeling.

—What rules do you want to add?

—We can only kiss. 

—Yes, I think that would be best.

Even though we are lovers, it does not mean that we can be disrespectful to each other.

—Well, I’d better go.

—Wait.

As I was getting ready to leave. Hayasaka-san showed me her cell phone. She showed me the karaoke chat group again, and this time she pointed to the icon of an American superhero.

—Whose icon is that?

—Tachibana-san’s boyfriend. Looks like he’s joining us.

—I see.

We are in the same year, so I assumed it would happen. 

—Kirishima-kun, can you make it?

If things continue like this, I want to see the scene where Tachibana-san and her boyfriend treat each other lovingly.

—No problem at all. In fact, it’s fine, I’m looking forward to it.

—You can’t say that to me when you’re shivering.

I am cold. My vision is distorted. I think I’ve already caught a cold.

—All right, when this day is over, let’s meet somewhere where no one can see us.

Hayasaka-san hugs me from behind.

—I will be a great comfort to you.

***

During the weekend, quite a few people gathered for karaoke. Few people know that this event is about Nozaki trying to win over a girl. So everyone thinks we are here to have fun and nothing else.

About 20 people gathered in front of the station in the early afternoon. We were worried about the safety of so many people, but Maki quickly led them into the party room.

At first I sat down without thinking, but when I saw how they were organized, I decided to sit next to Maki.

—After all, Hayasaka-san is popular.

When I sat down again, Maki reproached me with his words.

—You’ve been beaten, eh.

Hayasaka-san was surrounded by many boys, as if she were a princess with her suitors around her.

—Hayasaka-san, what kind of song will you sing?

—You look very pretty in those clothes.

—Shall I get you a drink?

Hayasaka—san becomes the center of attention as all the boys start talking to her from all directions. 

—Well, I, um, well, I, um, haha….

Hayasaka—san is a very shy person when she is the center of attention, so it is inevitable that she just smiles awkwardly. She is still treated like a doll. 

—They work hard to win her over.

Maki said.

—You’re right, she stands out more than Nozaki-kun, the star of the show.

—In that sense, Kirishima is great. Since he’s dressed like he should be.

—Hmm, thanks, I guess.

Did you just tell me that I’m not dressed properly?

—Hayasaka is a true angel, isn’t she? She’s so kind to people with ulterior motives.

—Yes, I’m impressed, but I’m sure she’s upset deep inside.

—Really? I’m just worried about her falling in love with the wrong guy. 

—I just call it like I see it.

—Doesn’t that drive you crazy? Do you want to be by her side?

—Not exactly.

—Kirishima, look over there.

In the middle of the noisy room, a girl is holding the Denmoku with a cold expression on her face. She was wearing a bare shouldered dress and maintained a good posture. 

It was Tachibana-san who was sitting by the wall, and her boyfriend was next to her. He was a young and handsome boy, his teeth were shining, and he came from a rich family, not to mention his good figure.

In other words, he’s the complete opposite of me.

—It’s like he’s watching her, it’s really annoying.

—No, it’s natural for couples to be together. I can’t help but feel jealous. 

While I was talking to Maki, Tachibana-san looked up for a moment. My eyes met hers and I couldn’t help but look down.

—Kirishima, why are you looking down? You should burn this image into your retinas.

—No, I see her whenever I can.

—Tch, through her boyfriend’s profile? Come on, man…

Tachibana-san’s boyfriend posts pictures of her on social media every day. She seems unconcerned about his partner’s privacy.

—I don’t know how you can bear such a punishment.

—I ask myself the same question. I feel pain in my heart when I see her. Still, I can’t help but look at her every day.

—They are a little stiff. 

Still, I wonder if their relationship is going well.

***

Being in this place is torture. 

I can’t help but look at Tachibana-san as she sings a song that her boyfriend requested, clapping her hands along the way. What is this, why do I have to watch this scene of the girl I like?

Tachibana-san continues with a cold expression on her face. But I guess she will laugh when she is alone with her boyfriend. I was so desperate that I even sang a song about my lost love.

And it didn’t work at all to get her attention, because she kept driving the Denmoku while I was singing. 

No one looked at me, and they didn’t applaud. It was really pathetic. When the song was over, everyone looked at each other as if I was asking them to react to my performance. I guess I wasn’t very good.

But one of the girls said in a subdued voice.

—I think it was good.

It was Hayasaka-san.

—It was really unique and quite remarkable…. 

But as expected, such words caused chaos in the place.

—Why did Hayasaka-san side with Kirishima?

Everyone asked the same question. Hayasaka-san noticed this and rushed to calm the situation.

—No, that’s not what I meant. I just meant that even if you’re not good, you can make it look like you are. Kirishima’s song sounded like a pig screaming, didn’t it?

Hayasaka-san, I agree that no one should know about our relationship, but you don’t have to be so cruel.

—Oh, come on, Kirishima, he’s a good boy.

Maki pats me on the shoulder.

—You sang it wrong on purpose, didn’t you?

—Ah yes. You’re right, it was all on purpose.

While I was talking, I sent a message to Hayasaka-san: “Just pretend we don’t know each other.

It would be a disaster if Hayasaka-san’s best friend found out that I’m dating her.  When she reads my message, she shudders and starts making circles with her fingers.

After everyone finished singing, it was time to talk.

It was decided that we should talk about our first love. It’s a good way to liven things up. The kids who are good at talking about their first love will tell their funny stories.

When it was my turn, I told him a story about my school days.

—During the summer vacation, I stayed with a relative. I stayed there for a week and made friends with a girl who lived there.

She was very beautiful and I thought about her all the time. In other words, I fell in love. My first love. We played together in the park every day and I was happy. But one day I saw her playing with another boy, and I felt a pain in my heart, so I left.

—I don’t want you to be friends with any boy but me.

I know now that it was jealousy, but at the time I didn’t know what I was feeling and I couldn’t control it.

—I guess those words were uncomfortable for her, because the next day she stopped going to the park. 

It was a story of a bitter first love gone wrong. I looked at Tachibana-san, but she had no non-expressive reaction to my story. She didn’t seem to be particularly impressed. Some of the girls teased me, partly to liven things up.

—Men’s jealousy is disgusting.

—You are right.

—Disgusting.

I think so. I think so too. But one of the girls didn’t like the reactions she got from the others.

—I don’t think it’s disgusting.

Again, it was Hayasaka-san. 

—I would be jealous too if the person I liked was friends with someone else.

She was defending me again, but this time her words made everyone feel very interested.

—Is there someone you like too, Hayasaka-san?

—Have you ever been jealous? 

—I want Hayasaka-san to be jealous of me!

Her eyes roll from side to side as the men ask her questions.

—W–What if I like someone? Well, I… I don’t have anyone yet!

She replies awkwardly and nervously.

—You guys are bothering her!

One of the girls shouted.

—No more questions, come on, go. 

The boys are still happy and want to keep asking questions. On the other hand, Hayasaka-san seems more awkward than usual. 

So I sent her another message on my phone.

“Don’t worry about me!”

Hayasaka-san looked at her phone and turned red while making circles with her fingers. You don’t know what you’re doing if you react to me. While I was about to reprimand her, one of the girls came up behind me and spoke to me.

—By the way, Kirishima, you’re in the Mystery Research Club, right?

She told me that her brother was a graduate of the school and a former member of the club.

—Now you can try again with your first love.

—Why?

—Because I know what’s hidden in that club. And it is the Love Manual.

—Oh, that’s what you mean.

There was a high school graduate who tried to write a mystery novel about love. First, he focused on the three components of a mystery: how, who, and why.

He wanted to write a mystery novel, but perhaps as a result of his adolescence, he completed a book of secrets that was simply a study of love, and he called it “The Handbook of Love,” which has been handed down from generation to generation.

—It tells you how to pick up girls, doesn’t it?

The “how to” section of the love notes. It also mentioned the single contact effect.

—According to my brother, the guy who wrote it is a genius with an IQ of 180.

—Hard to believe.

Some of the research is based on psychology and behavioral science, but a lot of it is stupid.

—Huh? Is there really such a thing as a romance manual?

Other boys who were listening to us interrupted the conversation.

—Kirishima, are you reading this book?

They seemed to find it interesting that a person like me was talking to them about love.

—If you’re reading a manual on how to flirt, you’re really trying too hard.

—If you do that kind of research, does that mean you’ll look better?

—Stupid, reading doesn’t make you more handsome.

The guys started making fun of me, and I started making fun of myself, too, because I’m a big, skinny guy who wears glasses, so teasing is the order of the day. It was all jokes and nothing more, not meant to offend me, but there was one girl who didn’t like that I was the center of the teasing.

—That is not true.

Of course it was Hayasaka-san. It seems that my message did not get through at all.

—Kirishima-kun is a good boy!

She clings to the hem of her skirt. But then she notices that the room has gone quiet and rushes to correct the situation.

—I mean, it’s good to be serious about your love life, and Kirishima-kun’s appearance is quite normal…

Hayasaka was speechless at that moment, hesitated, and then said.

—I like that about you, Kirishima-kun….

This is not good at all. Hayasaka-san, you’re getting too nervous. And as expected, everyone lost their heads.

—Hey, did you just say that you like Kirishima?

—That’s a lie, isn’t it?

Who Hayasaka-san likes is the biggest concern of the boys. She has to deny it quickly.

I can’t use my phone this time, so I’m praying that she denies it completely.

—Huh, no. When I say I like Kirishima-kun, I mean I like him as a character….

Girls around Hayasaka-san react to her words

—Why is everyone going crazy? It’s like Hayasaka saying she’s in love with a clown.

—Um, but if you think about it, it could be.

—Right… It would even be interesting.

—Kanane, are there any tricks you want Kirishima to do?

—What do you mean?

Hayasaka-san’s face becomes serious. And he turns her head with dark eyes as she begins to whisper.

—Everyone treats Kirishima-kun like that, but …. The truth is, I don’t care about anyone else, and Kirishima-kun is ….. He’s unique…

He had a dangerous air about him, and it seemed like he was about to say something terrible. Everyone sensed that Hayasaka-san’s mood was different than usual, and they didn’t know what to do.

I’m the only one who can save the day….

Hayasaka-san, tell me what you want!

I am willing to sacrifice.

—Tell me something I can act on! I’m trying to make people laugh!

—Huh?

Hayasaka—san shouts in confusion.

—I don’t remember you having that kind of character, Kirishima-kun.

—Ah!

Hayasaka-san had a slight emotional misunderstanding. When she saw me being made fun of, she got angry, partly because of me, and partly because she was frustrated that everyone was trying to force their image on me, even if it was just a joke.

Anyway, I will do my best to reverse this situation.

—So tell me something I can use to make everyone laugh!

—That’s not what I’m talking about…

Hayasaka-san looks in all directions in sorrow. But my tension draws her to me, and her expression brightens, which is a good sign.

—Hmmm~

I thought she knew what I was trying to do. But the harsh reality is… She turned out to be more clumsy than I thought!

—Um… How about a rap?

Eh… Did you really ever think that I would be good at rapping? My face became expressionless at the situation, and Hayasaka—san was nervous as she wondered if she had said something wrong. But that makes it perfect, because it makes it more believable in the eyes of the others. 

—Sing an acapella! 

Maki shouted.

How good it is to be able to count on your friends in the most difficult moments of your life. Well, I had no choice. So I picked up the microphone and started to check its status by tapping it a few times. 

The atmosphere in the room was pleasant. Everyone had already forgotten the love that Hayasaka-san had expressed for me, and it was perfect.

I would put a difficult song on the karaoke to ruin it, and I would sing it badly anyway. Once the song is finished, people can adjust it nicely and everything will be back to normal.

Even though I was satisfied with the result, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad when I saw that Tachibana-san still didn’t pay attention to me. It’s painful when the girl you want the most still doesn’t pay attention to you.

A moment later, she lifts her eyes and looks at me with her usual expressionless face. I can’t read her emotions at all, I wish someone would end this pain soon. Can’t she even smile a little for me? 

What I want from her is not just her feelings. I want her to see me as I see her.

I want her to be able to accompany me wherever I go, to walk beside me in the hall at school, and to think of me before he goes to sleep.

The place where I am now is too far away from that place, but anyway, Tachibana-san has a boyfriend, and he is by her side right now.

But even though everything was going well, things started to go wrong from one moment to the next. Someone cut off the operation of the microphone. And to my surprise, this time it wasn’t Hayasaka-san. It was someone else whom no one would expect to do such a thing, Hikari Tachibana.

***

—That kind of behavior is not allowed.

Tachibana-san expressed her displeasure in a firm tone. Since she was a girl who had a slightly intimidating presence, everyone in the room was completely silent in anticipation of her next words. She took a sip of her melon drink as if her work was already done. 

And before she sat down, she added.

—Some people don’t like this kind of behavior, so I don’t think you should do it.

Tachibana-san did not say who he was referring to and then forgot about it. But we all knew in our minds who he was referring to, and we all looked at Hayasaka-san at the same time.

Her face was dark and dejected. It was all because she didn’t like me playing the role of the fool in the group. And then I indirectly forced her to keep me in that role. 

—I am sorry.

Hayasaka-san said as everyone’s eyes were on her.

She tried to smile again, but such an expression could not last long on her face and it darkened again before she finally hid her face in her fringe.

—I don’t think I’m over my cold yet. I’m going home now.

She grabbed her purse, stood up and put her hand on the doorknob.

—I’m sorry, Tachibana-san, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. 

She looked down, said nothing, and ran out of the room. Everyone was astonished.

—Don’t you find it strange that Hayasaka-san was always protecting Kirishima?

One of the boys sitting next to him said nonchalantly.

—Are you saying she likes him?

—I don’t think so. Hayasaka-san is so kind that she can’t help but protect everyone.

All the boys began to think that she was nothing more than an angel willing to protect the weakest. 

—My sister is calling me.

I used this excuse to leave the place. As I was about to close the door, I looked back and saw Tachinaba-san carelessly fiddling with the tenmoku.

***

It was dusk, and Hayasaka-san was walking down an alleyway just off the main street.

—I’m sorry.

As soon as she saw me reach her, she looked down.

—I know I didn’t behave well today.

Hayasaka-san holds her bangs down to hide her expression.

—I knew it was a joke, but I didn’t want Kirishima-kun to be treated lightly. Did it bother you?

—Not at all. I was happy.

—But you made a mistake by following me. From Tachibana-san’s point of view, Kirishima-kun seems to like me.

I have my doubts. First of all, Tachibana-san hardly paid any attention to me.

—But what you say is true, I like you, Hayasaka-san.

—I’m your lover, remember?

—My favorite lover, which means I like you very much.

—I see.

Hayasaka-san hugs me while uttering an “Aah.”

—I wanted to help Kirishima-kun, but Tachibana-san ruined everything.

—Actually, it seemed to help you.

—No, I did all that to help you, but I think she noticed. Are you upset?

—It doesn’t matter. Besides, she has a boyfriend. 

I can’t be with the girl I want the most right now.

—Still, Kirishima-kun, you really like Tachibana-san, don’t you?

—I don’t know.

—When she was singing karaoke, you just watched her. 

—I don’t remember.

—You looked at her all the time, and you became less and less happy.

Hayasaka-san continued.

—You were angry because Tachibana-san put a straw in her boyfriend’s drink. That doesn’t mean anything, I usually do that to guys I’m not interested in.

Yes, that’s right, Hayasaka-san put a straw in the boy next to her.

—Yes, and that’s when I got depressed again. 

—Oh, I see. You were jealous.

Hayasaka-san seemed satisfied.

—I couldn’t help you, but as I promised, I will comfort you a lot.

Hayasaka-san approached me, but stopped at the last moment, looking at her feet.

—Today I feel a little embarrassed, I don’t know why. 

—You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

—No, no. I want to do it for you now. This is very important.

But Hayasaka-san’s face was still red and she could not move. So this time I hugged her from my side.

—Kirishima-kun

Hayasaka-san’s arm goes around my back. It’s true that I feel calmer. I feel very happy. Just as I thought that, Hayasaka-san closed her eyes and looked at me. I had imagined a hug, but Hayasaka-san had a different idea.

—It tastes like melon soda.

After kissing me, she smiled and pressed her face to my chest with a sweet expression.

—Hayasaka-san, you have a habit of hugging.

—Yes, I like it.

We stayed like that for a while.

—I’m sorry, Kirishima, but you’re still not number one for me.

—I know.

The feeling is mutual.

***

A few days later. Nozaki-kun got a date with the girl he wanted. Surprisingly, the other girl liked Nozaki-kun as well.

The fact that they started dating was shocking to everyone, as there were a lot of guys who were heartbroken when they heard the news.

It is always difficult to be with the person you love the most. For that reason, the decision I made with Hayasaka-san to be lovers was the right one.

But there are always rules that we have to follow, if we both achieve our goal of being with that person, it will be over. If one of us achieves our goal and the other does not, the relationship is still broken. 

In other words, for me and Hayasaka-san, only one of us will be unhappy. Or maybe both of us will be happy with that person. It’s a 50-50 bet, anything can happen.

After class in the club room on the second floor of the old school building. I was wondering why I couldn’t hear the sound of the piano in the next room, when suddenly my name was called.

—Kirishima-kun.

I looked up to see who it was, and before I knew it, a girl was standing at the entrance. It was Tachibana-san.

When I looked at her again, she was very pale, like a summer mirage. But she was real.

—Um…

Tachibana-san nodded her head, trying to say something.

—I’m sorry, I forgot what I wanted to say.

—Then I guess it wasn’t important.

—I guess… I’ll start practicing piano now.

—All right.

Tachibana-san was about to turn around and leave, but before she did, she turned to look at me.

—The karaoke the other day.

He said with a brusque tone.

—You were a good singer.

—I see.

—You were trying to hum a low note, weren’t you?

Tachinaba-san continued.

—Kirishima-kun, when you entered the room that day, you sat next to the girl from the book club. You were saving a seat for Nozaki-kun, weren’t you? When I heard that the two of them were dating, I could understand everything.

It’s true that Nozaki-kun made sure to be by the side of the girl he liked. Tachibana-san saw that.

—Is that what you wanted to do?

—It is nice to help other people.

—What about the clown character you submitted to Hayasaka-san?

—What do you mean?

—Nothing.

I was wondering why Tachibana-san came to tell me all these things about karaoke, and just when I thought he was going to leave, he took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket.

—I came to give you this.

Tachibana-san held the paper out to me. As I took it, I touched her thin, white fingers.

—What is this?

—Open it.

I opened the paper and saw that his name was written in beautiful handwriting.

Membership form. Mystery Research Club, 2nd Grade, Class 6. Hikari Tachibana.  No… Is this for real?

—What is this about?

—I think it’s more than obvious. Is there a problem?

Tachibana-san does not look away. The irises of her beautiful eyes have the power to make you say no.

—No… There is no problem.

When I said that, Tachibana-san nodded and said, “Good.”

—See you tomorrow, president.

What the hell is she up to?

—By the way, Tachibana-san, I want to clarify something.

—What?

—This is a research club, not a study group.

—President, you are very strict.

—I know.

I’m fine with being the second girlfriend

I’m fine with being the second girlfriend

わたし、二番目の彼女でいいか
Score 8
Status: Ongoing Author: Artist: Released: 2021 Native Language: Japanese

Kirishima and Hayasaka are two classmates who have a secret relationship in public.

In their school life they pretend that they don't know each other, but behind the scenes there is much more to them than people can imagine. The two get into a relationship that is difficult to break and ends up being impure, unhealthy, and complicated, as the relationship between them was nothing more than an affair that simply created a love triangle before Kirishima's first love and his second love.

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