44. Pure Temptation
Visiting the house of a girl… it was like a dream come true event for every high school boy out there, and definitely not something that happened frequently. However, this happened to me, in reality. It made thinking that perhaps I was in heaven all along.
I was happy to be where I was now, but that was because I had not realized yet how exhausting it was to actually play with a child.
Out of breath, I couldn’t even give a proper answer. Yet, the 5 years old girl sitting on my back, as I was on all fours, raised her arm and slapped on my back energetically. Since we were in a child’s room, it wasn’t all that big in size. However, running around in circles like I had been doing for a while now, it felt like I had just finished going around the world.
“H-hey, are you okay…?”
“You don’t have to force yourself like that…”
At first, I was happy that she was so friendly to me. That was why I wanted her to rely on me, while asking Natsukawa for advice, and tried my best to respond to her requests with all of my strength even if it was just a small request, I thought she would eventually get tired playing with me, but…
『”Hm? Ah, you shouldn’t run like that, it’s dangeroug…”』
A child’s mood couldn’t be more unstable. On just a whim, they would come charging at you. In the beginning, I was just joking around with ‘Oh, you’re so strong’, but with that said, she judged that being rough like jumping to me was totally fine.
“I-I give up…”
Horsey fell to the ground. Perhaps Natsukawa’s dear younger sister felt like she was going down using a lift and found it fun, she burst out laughing. They said that a child had infinite endurance, but I felt like it was me who used up all of my stamina.
“Excuse me… are you always playing around so hard like this…?”
“No, we play house at best…”
“Umm, Hey, Airi-san?”
“I-I didn’t teach her that!”
For the first time ever, a young girl called me disgusting.
That hurts even more than hearing it from any girl my age… What a shock. So, being told like that by a pure girl like her is this hard huh? This is the first time I feel discouraged so bad like this.
“I’m the one tired you know.”
Urkk…She sure is enjoying herself. Ah, hey, don’t pull my hair! Aahh, don’t kneel on my back, it huuurrrttts, Auuh, that spot, nice, keep going…!
“Hey, you really don’t have to force…”
“I don’t think that’s the problem right now…”
Airi-chan let my hair go, but she was still riding on my back. I could feel her body sticking to me, perhaps she was mimicking me. From an outsider’s perspective, this kind of distance might be a total out.
I saw Natsukawa panicking while saying something, but I really couldn’t bother with that right now… You get it, right? The feeling of suddenly doing some exercise after months of nothing.
Suddenly, my back felt lighter. Guess Natsukawa picked up Airi-chan. I would never have imagined I could lay down at the floor of a girl’s house.
The dear younger sister was lifted from my back and ended up carried by Natsukawa. Compared to her energetic attitude from before, she was now really calm, and just looked at me with a relaxed expression.
Well, well, she definitely thinks that she didn’t do anything wrong… right?
I got my breathing under control, while still laying on the ground, I looked on the side and observed the two sisters.
“W-What is it?”
“… Nothing, it’s just fresh seeing you with that kind of expression.”
“m!…. D-Don’t look!”
Since I never had much contact with Natsukawa’s family, I always felt like she was an only-child. That was why, seeing Natsukawa making an elder sister-like face like that, I couldn’t help but admire… and at the same time, I felt something new has awaken within me.
“──Are you satisfied now?”
“You were worrying about something, right? I could tell it clearly you know.”
In the end, I couldn’t hear her true words from her mouth, but it was probably something along to what Ashida said.
Well, as long as Natsukawa is feeling better, that’s all that matters…
Not yet? I feel like I already used up most of my stamina though… So even after introducing me to Airi-chan, she’s still not feeling better? I’m pretty sure Airi-chan will remember me even after today though.
“───N-Not yet. There’s still some things I want to ask you…”
“…..Huh? something to ask me?”
Huh? There’s something she want to ask? Wasn’t the goal of today just to have Airi-chan remember me? So, it’s not only that?
“Hmm, for example?”
While embracing Airi-chan from behind, Natsukawa started thinking. Airi-chan herself looked up at Natsukawa with a ‘You’re not going to let go?’ expression.
She really energetic huh? Even though she said that she was tired not long ago. Well, it’s true that she barely used her stamina though.
After waiting for a bit, Natsukawa seemed to have made up her mind, and threw the first question at me.
“──A-afternoon! Where do you usually go on lunch break?!”
“Ehhh…? Hmm, I eat on a bench in the courtyard, or if it looks like there’s an open seat in the cafeteria, I’ll eat there.”
When I returned a sniffy voice with some fake crying, Natsukawa muttered ‘I see…’ in a really low voice.
Perhaps she didn’t hear about this from Ashida…? I’m sure Ashida told her though…
Right when I was wondering why Natsukawa suddenly asked me that, she gave me a ‘There’s still more, prepare yourself!’ expression….. Alright, bring it on!
“W-Why are you eating all on your own? You can just eat together with everyone else, right?”
“Hm?… Oh, that’s true.”
It might sound like a delicate topic, but there’s no sad reason for it. Why did I even start eating all on my own…? It wasn’t necessarily because I didn’t have any friends. Well, in the beginning… I just wanted to distance myself from Natsukawa, thinking about stuff, alone. I was basically on a search to find myself. Even now, I eat lunch on my own. Before, I always (forcefully) ate together with Natsukawa after all. Eating together with someone now after all that is probably too much for ask.
“You know, when Aizawa got back together with her ex-boyfriend, somehow I ended up like that. Ah, but, today I ate lunch with the people from the Discipline Committee. I was with Shinomiya-senpai, Inatomi-senpai, and… Hmm, what was her name again…”
“Eh…? S-Shinomiya-senpai? You did?”
“Ah, hm, Yeah?”
She stared at me in disbelief.
Wait, she saw me being called over by Shinomiya-senpai, right…? Also, was there anything weird about it…? P-Perhaps, she’s thinking, ‘Someone normal like you has nothing to do with them’, or something like that?!
“W-Why? What kind of relationship do you two have?”
“Eh? We just met in the cafeteria by chance──Hmm? relationship? My relationship with her is, hmm…..I’m sure we’re just senior and junior. Ah, she’s a friend of Sis as well.”
H-hello? What is this awkward atmosphere about? Why’d you suddenly go all quiet, Natsukawa-san! Questions! Next Question Please! I don’t have the strong mentality to deal with this silence!
As I was thinking about what to do, Natsukawa looked up with an expression like she wanted to say something. Right as she opened her mouth, I focused on my hearing.
“W-What about us…?”
“Can’t you just… eat together with us, like ‘before’ ?”
“That’s, as I said be───Well, you know.”
I feel like I said it before when she visited my home, but───I gave up on trying to continue that. Those words I said back then… were pretty much said in the romantic sense. But, I don’t think that this is what Natsukawa wanted to hear.
It’s not about between a boy and a girl in a ‘romantic’ sense, nor in a sense of ‘friendship’. What she means is we──we’re a ‘group’. Including Ashida, Natsukawa is probably wanted to ask, ‘Weren’t we a group, who were always together, talking and having fun?’.
At the very least, I’m being included in her group. Well, I’m really happy to have such a beautiful girl like Natsukawa in my group, and an energetic and talkative girl like Ashida isn’t bad either. But from a boy’s point of view, it might be hard to completely take away the romantic aspect of that. I’m sure that being with them would guarantee an enjoyable and fun high school life though. At the very least, I, who had ‘cut everything away’, since I gave up and stopped hoping for anything, it would surely be doable. I think. Maybe. Probably. Surely. Probably not.
When I was keeping my distance, something changed. In fact, through losing the nuisance called ‘Wataru Sajou’, Natsukawa got new friends. Once I’m with her, someone else will stay away. With I’m being near her, there’s a possibility that she cannot spend the youth she deserved.
In that sense, although it’s painfully difficult for me to accept, perhaps ot’s not bad to just support Sasaki’s feelings for Natsukawa instead. That guy is pretty handsome after all.
Well, I don’t like it though.