This was the following afternoon after the day I had helped Himeno Miina, with classes having already concluded for the day. As I was the supervisor for the attraction my class would be offering during the culture festival, I immediately learned from Himeno Miina, and started preparing. Of course, while still continuing the Himeno Miina conquest strategy.
(One more month until the culture festival, huh. Will I experience it this way, I wonder?)
Was that maid uniform lap pillow event yesterday just a dream of mine? Miena did not mention anything about it for the entire day. I’ll just label it as a dream of mine, and move on. So that Miena can enjoy the culture festival the way she wants to, I need to quickly get in contact with Himeno Miina. For now, I’ll focus on that.
Though, looking at Himeno Miina’s reaction yesterday, I feel like that would prove a bit difficult. After all, I see no progress if we’re actually closer or not. Maybe she’s annoyed by me, I wouldn’t know.
(I can guarantee that’s not the case.)
Even if you say that, I really can’t put much faith into that, you know~
(Don’t be like that. Today, I’ll help you completely win her over today with my advice.)
Are you sure about that…I feel like asking someone else would have been better in the long run…
(I know myself the best. That includes how I like to be treated, as well as my likes and dislikes.)
Hmm…Well, whatever. Time to procure the cardboard boxes.
(Ah, you don’t have any faith in me at all, right?)
While exchanging a few words with Miena, I walked around the school to look for cardboard boxes that I could use in the haunted house. Although we still have a full month until then, it’s much more beneficial for me to start early. It’d be troublesome if another class managed to secure them before us, and I want to snatch everything that I can which they offer here at school.
Since I was without success in my search for cardboard boxes, I widened up my search area, and moved to the middle school division. It’s been about half a year since I last came here. Walking along the same plot I had been so used to, I felt a healthy amount of nostalgia.
(It feels much more fresh to me.)
Yeah, you’re not an insider here after all. I’d love to show you around, but there’s nothing worth mentioning here.
(You’re pulling the ‘We’re so normal’ appeal, right.)
Right as I was enjoying a bit of back and forth banter with Miena…
“Ah, it’s Itsuki-nii. What are you doing here?”
“Oh, Himari. Great timing, can you help me look for some cardboard boxes?”
Right upon entering the plot of the middle school division, I ran into my junior Himari.
(It’s Himari-chan~ She’s like a real little sister, so cute~)
Not good, the second words like little sister and childhood friend pop up, this gal game brain in my head is automatically guiding my thoughts. Need to ignore her for now.
“Cardboard boxes? What are you going to use them for? Infiltrate some secret base?”
“Hell no, I’m using them for the culture festival.”
“I see, it’s the time for the high school division’s culture festival, huh. I want to hurry up and become a high school student myself.”
“It’ll happen soon enough, so enjoy your days as a middle school student some more.”
“After you and Rion-nee moved up to high school, it feels like I’m the only one being left out…”
“You’re still a child after all, Himari. So, where could I find some cardboard boxes?”
Hearing me use the word child, Himari’s cheeks popped out, as she pouted at me.
“Hmpf. There should be some behind the school at the storage shed. Since you need the help of a child like me, you’re even more of a child right, Itsuki-nii? Ehehe.”
I ignored that comment and walked after Himari, onwards to the storage shed.
(I want to have a little sister like her myself~)
On the way there, Miena kept going on about how much she loves Himari. Also, since you’re making it sound that way, she’s not my little sister, okay.
(But she’s really clingy when it comes to you, Itsuki-kun.)
We were in the same literary club back in middle school. Not to mention just the two of us, so that’s why.
(I see~ But, is that the only reason? She gives off a scent similar to Rion-chan.)
Maybe they’re using the same shampoo?
(That’s not what I was talking about! Itsuki-kun…are you aiming for the harem route?)
Huh? I’m a beginner at gal games, I have no idea what you’re even on about.
(I wanna know why Himari-chan is so attached to you. Go ask her.)
Huh? Why me? Is it that important?
(Yup. It’s very crucial to our future heroine conquest strategy, and absolutely essential information.)
S-Seriously…Gal games are crazy, and absolutely beyond me.
“By the way, Himari?”
“I’m thankful that you help me out like this, but why are you even going that far?”
“Hm? Where did that come from?”
“You know, you’re popular in class, right. Aren’t you embarrassed about being seen together with some loner like me?”
Since we always spend time together after class back in middle school, I wasn’t too bothered with how we seemed to the outside. It was totally normal for us to be together. It was like we were a pair of siblings. I can’t blame an outsider like Miena to be curious about it now. If anything, after she pointed it out, now I’m interested in it myself.
“I’m not embarrassed at all.” Himari stopped in her tracks, and gave me a blunt answer.
On top of that, her expression was different from the usual innocent Himari, as I felt a strong pressure from deep inside her big eyes. This is the first time I saw Himari like this.
“Because you’re an only-child, huh. Well, I do feel like an older brother when it comes to—”
“That’s not it.” Himari wouldn’t even let me finish my words, immediately denying them.
“Wha…what’s that serious face for?”
“Itsuki-nii, do you not remember your first kiss with me…?”
Hey hey hey, what is this girl saying!? Also, don’t scream like that, Miena. You’re giving me a headache.
“Um…ehm…I don’t have any memory of that happening, though…”
If that really happened, then even I would remember. What kind of romcom is this, just explode already, me.
“I knew it. Judging from your attitude so far, I figured that might have been the case.”
“When I just moved up to middle school, you stopped me from falling down the stairs, right?”
“I remember! I sure do! As a result of that incident, you joined the literary club I was in, right?”
Yeah, I still remember that. That’s how we got to know each other. So nostalgic, really.
(Itsuki-kun, you only save girls who fall down the stairs… So I wasn’t the first one…)
Hm? Why are you so sad about that, Miena.
“Back then, our lips overlapped, and…”
“They sure as hell didn’t!”
(Itsuki-kun…so you already had your first kiss…)
I didn’t! Also, do you sound like you’re close to breaking out in tears!
(I’m the only one who has no experience kissing…Sniff.)
Ehhh!? You don’t? So that means…Himeno Miina doesn’t either!? At the very least, no stories like that are going around, and I didn’t hear anything from Shouma either.
(…Of course I don’t! Dummy!)
I got some secret information! Heck yeah! Great job, Himari! …Wait no, that’s not important right now. I need to resolve this misunderstanding quickly.
And about this misunderstanding as well!
“Himari, you seem to have the wrong idea about something. Back then, I caught you in my arms, so our lips were nowhere close to touching.”
“Ehhh, really? Hmmm? Weird~?”
Ah, she was trying to tease me, huh.
(Hoh, so that’s what that was. Man, Himari-chan really got me with that one~)
“Geez. Let’s go to the storage shed already.”
“It’s because you suddenly said something weird like that. Of course, I like Itsuki-nii.”
“Yeah yeah, I got it. Thanks a bunch.”
(It seems like we avoided a different route.)
“Ehehehe.” Himari showed a smile like the warm sun.
I listened to the cicadas chirping, while enjoying this smile, and we started walking again. The rapid change of seasons sure becomes apparent now. Not a second ago, I wasn’t feeling any nostalgia, but it probably is because of my conversation with Himari. If I just leave everything to the passage of time, I won’t be able to conquer my heroine. And then, Miena will stay the way she is right now, with neither of us knowing if this will have any repercussions.
I need to become the active one, and approach Himeno Miina. After this whole cardboard carrying is over, I’ll think about how to win over Himeno Miina without asking Miena for help. This was the determination filling my chest—I will save Miena.
We passed through the school building with a dense atmosphere, and reached the storage shed. Just as HImari stated, there were several stacked cardboard boxes.
“Can I just take them with me?”
“Sure. There’s a paper here, saying that you can take as many as you want. They’re boxes that were used to deliver food and stuff for the school store.”
She’s right, they’re up for use. I immediately started working to carry them back to the empty classroom in the high school division.
(Geez, what is my real body doing at this time…Even though Itsuki-kun offered to help, she’s not there to repay the favor at all…Mumble mumble.)
Since I don’t give off any dazzling light like she does, she probably has trouble finding me.
(I don’t either, okay!)
Somebody suddenly called out to me from behind my back, so both Himari and I turned around at the same time.
“Why is Himeno-senpai here…?”
Standing there was none other than Himeno Miina, hiding from the sun in the shadows of the school building. And yet, it felt like I saw a faint circle of light shining around her.
(Stop with the weird depictions already. I-It’s embarrassing…)
“So this is where you were.”
“You… were looking for me?”
Why? How? Just when I decided to be more manly and search for her…
“Saotome-kun, thanks a lot for yesterday. Because of your help, the preparations went smoothly.”
She only came here to say that?
(What am I thinking…!?)
Hey now, you should know that yourself the best. You are her after all.
(…Ah! Right! She came here to help you! It’s probably to thank you for yesterday. That’s what I would do!)
“So, do you have a bit of time right now? There’s something I’d like to talk about just between the two of us.”
“Just the two of us?”
“Yup. I don’t want to steal you from Himari-chan, but it’ll be really quick.”
“I…understand. Himari, I’ll be right back.”
“Okay~ But, Itsuki-nii, no cheating okay? I’ll tell Rion-nee otherwise.”
“Why would you bring up Rion now…Well, anyway, thanks a lot for today, you can head back now.”
“Mmm, carrying these cardboard boxes must be tough, right? I’ll just wait here.”
Himari remained where we had stood, whereas Himeno Miina and I moved to a different location.
(Mmmm??? What’s with this sudden event? Makes no sense. It seems like this heroine is bugged or something.)
As we moved to the back of the school building, I could only hear the cicadas chirping and the faint fall breeze. And, can’t forget about Himeno Miina’s faint toofsteps. Only our footsteps reverberated.
“This should be fine. Sorry to suddenly call you over like this.”
(Itsuki-kun, you don’t need to be so tense about this. Today, she has some business with you, so just be open and hear her out. But, don’t let her play you!)
Miena-san, why are you so hostile towards yourself…
“Fufu, you don’t need to be so nervous, you know?”
(She’s so calm, almost like she’s looking down at you…It’s annoying me…Was I always this kind of character?)
Eh, she’s super cute though. She’s being considerate, showing that in her expression, right.
(You’re too easy of a protagonist.)
“I might be a bit nervous.”
(She’s using formal language with you, so just go along.)
You’re asking too much of me again.
(You don’t need to be all polite towards me, okay?)
“You don’t have to speak so politely towards me. I’m also using frank language.”
“I under…I got it.”
Weird, she’s oddly friendly with me today. It’s almost like I’m talking with Miena herself.
(She’s gotten even more weird compared to last time. This amount of progress just seems dangerous at this point. This might be bad.)
Because I was too slow!? Maybe because I was too nervous, and gross, which made her realize that I don’t deserve any polite language? I don’t really get Himeno Miina’s true intentions, but with nobody around, it’s at least much easier to ask for a contact information exchange.
(Wait, it might be better for us to rethink our strategy. Something about me is off today.)
No, I’ll be going on the offensive today. Even if she rejects me, I’ll keep going until she accepts.
“I’m sorry to suddenly call you out like this. Let me apologize for what happened before.
“…What happened before?”
“Yep. You wanted to exchange contact information with me, right? I just went and rejected you for that… and I’m really sorry.”
She showed an even deeper bow compared to the time she was talking about.
(This woman…I want to hit her…)
Miena formed a fist, boiling with anger. Stop that, I don’t like violent heroines. Also, don’t hit yourself, okay.
“I’m totally fine! If anything, I should have expected that reaction, suddenly asking Himeno-san for your number.”
(Itsuki-kun…I really want to hit you now…)
Stop that, I don’t like violent heroines. Also, don’t hit the protagonist, okay.
“Fufu, that’s very much like you, Saotome-kun.” The girl raised her head, and showed a relieved smile.
Much like me? Maybe she finally found out how gross I really am? Well, that incident during that past lunch break turned into a rumour at school after all. It still is a shock…
“You don’t need to worry about that, Himeno-san. If anything, I was planning on asking you one more time for your contact information.”
Simply using casual language was all it took from me.
“I’m glad to hear that. I was actually hoping to ask you for that myself. I know that I don’t have much right to do so, after rejecting you once, but…If you still want to exchange numbers, then I’d be happy.”
“Eh, s-seriously!? Are you sure? I’m really happy, yes. Please take care of me.”
(Why are you backed into a corner now!? This woman is suddenly acting all arrogant…That mask of hers is crazy…W-What is she planning…?)
As the exact opposite of Miena’s shaking voice, I finished exchanging my contact information with Himeno Miina, using a shaking voice myself. My smartphone finally contains the number of my admired heroine! Not to mention it’s the number of this school’s idol! Did you see that!?)
(Don’t give me that! Even if you show me such a shit-eating grin, I’m not really that happy…M-Maybe I am a bit frustrated, but there’s also this sense of accomplishment…Ahh, this is complicated…Hmpf!)
Since we both spoke at the same time, Himeno Miina and I exchanged glances, and laughed.
(What are you laughing about?)
Miena broke between the two of us, glaring at us both. However, I wasn’t given much time to direct my attention at Miena’s bad mood, all because of the next bombshell Himeno Miina dropped with no warning.
“O-Oh yeah, to celebrate this success, how about we go watch a movie together the day after tomorrow, on Sunday?”
This time, Miena and I let out a dumbfounded voice in perfect synchrony. It makes sense that I wouldn’t understand this sudden development. After all, not the person herself did.
“U-Um? Hm? Was I mishearing things? Y-You want to watch a movie? With me?”
My head was filled with question marks all over. Not to mention that even Himeno Miina herself was frozen stiff…Maybe she really bugged out? Apparently this gal game is pretty buggy. Are they going to release a patch soon? Maybe she regrets abruptly inviting me to the movies?
(Even though she brought it up, I can’t believe her! Enough, just reject her!)
Ehhhh, I can’t do that! Also, I simply don’t want that. This invitation might never ever come in my entire life. Isn’t this the perfect chance for me to get closer and touch Himeno Miina? Also again, why are you so against yourself all of a sudden?
(Itsuki-kun, calm your horses. You don’t need to necessarily be close with her, as long as you touch her.)
What kind of business-like heroine conquest is this supposed to be?
Unable to bear with the silence, I spoke up. Please, don’t leave me hanging like this.
“Hm? Ah, s-sorry, maybe you don’t want to?”
“No no, of course I want to! I might be inexperienced, but please treat me…well!”
(Why are you acting like a newlywed couple…)
“Ehehe, thanks. Then, I’ll tell you the place and time later.”
After that, Himeno Miina also helped us carry the cardboard boxes, and I finished this afternoon with the greatest high in my entire life. For the first time ever, it felt like some colors appeared in my dull days.
This feeling of course didn’t stop even while I was on my way home. Half of September had already passed, and it felt like the days were ending much faster. Normally, I would be left with an odd sense of loneliness when the sun started to set, but nothing of that was found today. Instead, it felt like the spring sun was still shining on me and my encounter today. A feeling of happiness and accomplishment filled me.
I did it! This is a date event with Himeno Miina! Arriving at the entrance of my home, all these feelings exploded, and I formed a fist.
(A date event, huh…Her affection for you rose far too much after we got into the route…Aren’t we hitting the maximum value? This is too easy…even for me.)
What? Are you jealous? Well, I can’t blame you, it’s Himeno Miina after all~ Hehehe…fufufu…fuhehehehe…
(I’m not going to retort on that again, alright.)
“Itsuki, what are you grinning for?”
Right as I was about to open the door to my home, a girlish voice called out to me from the plot next to mine.
“R-Rion, since when were you there!?”
“Ever since you came back with an eerie grin on your face.”
“Seriously, what’s gotten into you? Did something good happen? Haven’t seen you this happy in a while.” Rion walked over to my home with a curious expression.
“Well, yeah. Rather than in a while, I don’t think I was ever this happy in my entire life.”
(If you feel this happy about it, I’m sure that the heroine herself would be delighted to know that.)
“Don’t tell me, did something happen with Hime!?”
“Eh!? W-Why do you think so?”
“I don’t know? My woman’s intuition.”
(Sharp! A maiden in love sure is on a different level.)
And more useful than a certain someone.
(You didn’t need to add that!)
“W-Well, there might have been something, there might not have…there definitely is something.”
“Seriously!? You made progress with Hime? I don’t buy that! It’s Hime we’re talking about, remember!?”
Not having fully heard out my response, Rion grew flustered.
(Maybe everyone really is keeping a certain distance from me…Well, makes sense since I don’t try to close the distance between others…)
Seems like Rion stepped on a landmine. However, the person in question didn’t receive any damage, and all these feelings instead rushed over to the benevolent mob, so I’d wish for her to stop that. I guess I need to throw in a follow-up of sorts.
“Himen-san is just like any other high school girl. Not much different from you at all.”
“Yeah, that might be true, but…Ah, does that mean I have a chance…”
(Itsuki-kun…that choice just now was exceptionally good, but you’re setting foot onto the harem route there.)
Huh? I was just trying to help Himeno Miina a bit. Isn’t this gal game a bit too hard for a newcomer like me, I can’t follow at all…
“Himeno-san has all sorts of hobbies herself, but she just can’t tell others.”
(Youuuu dummy! That choice will drastically drop your main heroine’s affection for you!)
“I know that, and it’s not like I want to invade her privacy or anything. It’s just, Hime would never just interact with some random boy, so I was surprised. Not to mention Hime and Itsuki…you know.”
It seems like Rion is more surprised that Himeno Miina gave any boy the time of day, rather than being specifically shocked that this boy is me. What a weird feeling.
“What, you make it sound like you have lots of experience with guys.”
“H-Huh!? I-I sure do! Lots, actually! You just don’t know!?”
“Hmm, I see.”
(Rion-chan…If I was the player here, I’d go for her straight away. She’s a character directly in my strikezone. She is my childhood friend after all.)
I ain’t listening. Also, she’s not a character nor your childhood friend.
“Since I have an abundance of experience, I’ll give you some advice, Itsuki.”
“Don’t force yourself, amateur.”
She’s living right next to me, so I’m not losing against an amateur like her. At least when it comes to gal games.
“I-I’m not an amateur! …Anyway, girls are weak against a direct approach and when you honestly convey your feelings. Hearing your honest feelings you normally wouldn’t say out loud, it makes our hearts skip.”
(What is this…Rion-chan is much more well versed in conquering methods than me…Is she actually a gal game otaku!?)
Keep your hopes and dreams only in your head, will you.
(I don’t want to hear that from a guy who keeps fantasizing all day…)
“Being there for her when she needs someone to talk to gets a lot of points as well. Helping her out in a time of need…it’s all over…”
Yeah, I want to become a man who can help a heroine in need.
“Speaking from personal experience, Rion?”
“N-No! Not at all! That just…helps in making a girl who already likes you even more head over heels for you!”
“Why are you blowing a fuse now? Also, there aren’t any girls who like me anyway.”
“T-There might be? You just don’t realize…not to mention very close by…”
“Huh? Like hell. I’m a plain and lonely mob at school, right.”
“But, your relationship with Hime progressed, right?”
“He he he…you’re right~”
“Hmpf, good for you. Make sure she doesn’t suddenly come to hate you, okay! I-I have to prepare dinner now, so I’m going. Bye.”
Ten times faster than she previously approached me, Rion now stormed back into her own home.
(What the hell is this…You’re breaking so many flags. In any normal gal game, you’d be the worst kind of protagonist.)
The following Saturday, I bought some new clothes at a nearby fashion shop with the assistance of Miena. After getting home, I checked over them again. Can’t fail at this event no matter what. Still, are these clothes really good enough?
(It’s totally fine, there’s no way I wouldn’t like the clothes I pick out for you.)
Looking at your hobbies and taste, I don’t think I can put much faith into that. Also, gotta set the alarm so that I don’t oversleep…Hey, Miena, you have to make sure that you wake me up before 8am, you hear me!? If I oversleep tomorrow, I’ll…Ugh!
Himeno Miina told me that we’d meet up at 10am, at the train station in the center of town. Thinking about my preparations in the morning and time to get there, I definitely need to get up before 8am.
(You’re way too nervous about every small thing, geez.)
I need to be prepared for everything. I definitely can’t fail at this chance.
(Damn me…Raising such an event like this…I’m exhausted just tagging along with Itsuki-kun, and all his fantasies…)
In preparation for the day tomorrow, I questioned Miena about all sorts of stuff. My preparations are complete, so I only have to wait for tomorrow to come…Ahh, I’m so nervous I can’t sleep!
(Geez…all because my real body did something like that…)
That night, I couldn’t fall asleep at all. My heart was beating faster than usual, and even Miena was up late. And then, the next morning arrived.
(Itsuki-kuuun, it’s morning. Wake up~)
Mmm…What time is it? Yaaaawn.
(…9am, I guess.)
9am!? Are you kidding me!? You serious!?
(Y-Yeah…Sorry, I overslept myself…Tehe~)
Miena stuck out her tongue, and gently tapped her fist against her head. Don’t you ‘Tehe~’ me! It’s not cute at all! Well, a bit because you look like Himeno Miina! I need to hurry up! I can’t be late on my very first date in my life…!
(Like I said! You don’t need to be so desperate, calm down.)
Like hell I can calm down. You’re just underestimating this because it’s your main body. And because of that, we failed several times. To me, Himeno Miina is Himeno Miina. To her, I’m just me.
(Once I’m back, she’ll see why you ended up late, so it’s fine.)
Even so…I can’t afford to be late today. I don’t want her to think of me as lousy, and uncaring. She went out of her way to invite me after all. It’s the Himeno Miina right now nonetheless.
H-Huh? Don’t tell me…are you actually jealous? No, that’s impossible, you can’t be jealous towards yourself.
(S-Shut up! You don’t have to say it over and over again! I’m not jealous or anything, you dummy!)
You don’t need to get so angry at me with a beet red face like that. I rushed to put on the clothes Miena selected for me, and dashed to the train station. Shortly after, my new clothes already gave off a faint smell of sweat. Normally I would have loved to get a bit of rest in the express train, but as I mentioned before, no such train stops at this train station. See how hard us commoners have it compared to the royalty?
(Why are you acting like that? It’s not like I always take express trains.)
Whatever, can’t this train be a bit faster!?
(Don’t be ridiculous. Maybe it’s because of your heartbeat, but now I’m starting to feel nervous myself. Why do I have to be nervous when meeting up with myself? Just make her wait a bit.)
Please, take this a bit more seriously, will you. Isn’t today the most important event of the heroine conquest you always talk about!?
(Maybe, but we’re already on the route, and there’s no CG to get, so I’m not that motivated. And even if we got CG, it’d just be me again, so who needs that.)
What does CG even mean!? Taking a selfie!? I want that!
(Did I get you even more motivated now? Well, if you’re that into it, we might as well move on to the ending today.)
(So that I’ll go back to my main body—In other words, you’ll have to touch my real body today, Itsuki-kun.)
It seems like Miena is quite confident in the success of our heroine conquest strategy. She sure is confident despite there not having happened anything until yesterday.
(I can tell since it’s me we’re talking about. We are the same. Like parameters having changed in probability, I can see the progress we made.)
Again, it’s hard for me to put faith in that. Maybe I should become the main actor today.
(Didn’t you hate acting yourself? Hehe.)
Just by having Miena next to me, I can feel myself filled with courage. I’ll just pray that Himeno Miina is the same way she was the other day. With this Miena-ness, I should be able to talk to her just fine.
(What the hell is Miena-ness!? I am the real one, okay? G-Geez…)
While Miena and I were talking about the whole heroine conquest, I reached the train station we had planned to meet up. It was quite a stylish train station. Upon getting off the train, I spotted a cafe in an open place. Although it was Sunday, a lot of people were around. In the midst of these, couples and young women stood out the most. I feel bad for the men walking around with suits even on Sunday.
(Shiraishi-san and friends often come here to play. It’s a popular normie spot, you know. But, I don’t like coming to these kinds of stylish places.)
Really? But, that’s good to know. I’m glad you helped me pick out some clothes for me, I wouldn’t want to be here wearing just a jersey.
(Yeah, a jersey is too much…But, there’s a chance she wouldn’t mind it.)
Are you serious? Also, I need to search for Himeno Miina first! Also, it’s already 10 past 10am now. I’m already ten minutes late. I can’t afford to make her wait any longer.
(I appreciate your mentality of not wanting to make your date wait, but can you at least make it so your heart stops racing painfully fast like it is right now?)
Despite saying this, Miena-san was awfully calm. Not for me though, I was panicking for good. I stepped out of the ticket gate, and rushed to the small plaza we decided to meet up at. This is the place, right? When I looked around, I immediately spotted Himeno Miina. She sure stands out, alright. Even though there’s a lot of stylish people around, she’s a beauty standing above others. Seriously, why would she watch a movie with someone like me? I’m feeling even more anxious now.
(It’s fine, I’m telling you. I’m sure that, while she was waiting for you, she thought about how to conquer the next character in the gal game she bought not too long ago.)
Hard to believe, but I can see that happening with you…
“S-Sorry! I’m really sorry for being late!”
I arrived in front of the girl, and made sure to apologize first. Even though I prepared everything so that this wouldn’t happen, I still disappointed her…I’m so lame, I want to die.
“No, it’s fine. You don’t need to panic like that, I just came here myself.”
She just smiled to reassure me. Ahh, how kind.
(See, that’s what I told you. I’m not the type of person who lives by ‘Time is money’, so just be honest and it’s all good.)
Compared to that, Miena-san calmly argued about the strategy we had. Maybe Himeno Miina was thinking something similar today?
(Don’t think she has the leisure to do that. Anyway, I don’t want to lose against myself today, so we’ll end this in one fell swoop.)
Now you’re motivated, huh.
“T-Thank you. By the way! Your clothes are really cute today!”
Alright, I did it! I’ve been practicing this phrase countless times yesterday with Miena after all. She wore a grey-based flared skirt with pink checks, and a black blouse above that. On the armholes down her shoulder was a small almost transparent black color that almost allowed me to look inside. This only made her look more stylish. On top of that, she wore my favorite black high knee socks! What a blessing for the eyes!
Getting to see Himeno Miina in her casual clothes is super rare. So this is one of those CGs? What a treasure.
(What are you blushing like that, me? No matter how you look at it, Itsuki-kun was just being polite, nothing more.)
Why are you so angry now? It was a success, so what’s it matter?
(…She’s too easy. Also, these clothes, did I have them before?)
You forgot what clothes you have? Himeno Miina might actually not be too invested in her own fashion…Well, I could sort of guess that with Miena. Comparing the stylish Himeno Miina, and Miena in her natural appearance, it created a fresh feeling with the difference between the two. I’m sure that normally, she’d be wearing much more casual clothes…The reason Miena isn’t wearing her usual hair accessory probably is another proof that she’s showing her true self right now.
“Your clothes look great on you as well, Saotome-kun. Do you like this sort of stuff?”
Ohhh! Himeno Miina praised me! By the way, Miena chose a knitted warm-colored top for me, with a black tailor jacket above that. Below, I wore denim checked cargo pants. Everything’s black about me.
“Y-Yeah! I like this kind of black-ish fashion a lot.”
“…Huh, I-I see. That’s pretty much the type of fashion I prefer as well.”
Huh…that reaction just now…Is she suspicious of me? Maybe this kind of fashion doesn’t really fit with how lame I look at school…
(She’s not, so don’t worry. If anything, I’m not the type of person who would criticize you for that, so it’s all good. Now, let’s go to the cinema~)
After that, Miena continued to give me adequate advice and information, so the way to the cinema was comfortable and pleasant. Because Himeno Miina was filled with Miena-ness today, it was easy for me to talk to her. The cinema we targeted was located on the second floor of a three-floor large shopping mall. Because it was like any other Sunday, the inside of the mall was filled with families with children. The voices of the children made me realize that despite this being an irregular situation, I was still in the middle of reality.
Looking at the other customers at the cinema and around, I saw couples flirting that stood out immensely. Maybe Himeno Miina and I also look that way? My heart’s racing just at the thought of that. In front of the ticket machine, Himeno Miina and I lined up next to each other.
“It’s been a while since I went to watch a movie, I’m feeling a bit nervous now. Also, what movie did you have in mind?”
I realized I had never even asked about which movie she wanted to see, so I voiced this honest question.
“This movie.” Himeno Miina pointed at the display.
“Oh, that? Sounds interesting. I was trailers for that a while back.”
Normally, I would just rent the movie and watch it at home. It’s at least cheaper than going to the cinema and watching it there. However, today is different. I understand the feelings of the people who come to the cinema. Of course, the feeling of being in the middle of the movie is one thing, but there’s also the part of you flirting with your lover.
(Oh yeah, that’s the popular Hollywood movie, right?)
Sounds fun, alright. That’s Himeno Miina’s choice for you.
(It’s running for two hours. Personally, I’d prefer the movie that’s running in the other cinema. You know, that anime. Well, whatever. I can just watch it once I’m back to my main body.)
W-What!? Why didn’t you tell me about that sooner!?
(What? The screen time?)
No! What you said after that! Miena, you’d rather watch that anime instead of the Hollywood movie!?
(Eh? Y-Yeah, I do. A popular gal game is the source material after all, and it got a TV anime. This TV anime ended up as a big hit, so they made it a movie even. Of course I was a fan ever since the source material, and—)
“W-Wait a second!”
“Hm? What’s wrong?”
Right as Himeno Miina was about to enter the movie to buy the tickets, her hand now stopped because of my outburst.
“Sorry! I-I actually would rather watch that anime instead…Would you be okay with that?”
(—there was nothing to criticize with the anime either, so…Wait! Itsuki-kun, what are you talking about!?)
“Eh, this anime!? Not the Hollywood movie?”
“Yeah, I’d rather watch that anime instead. With Himeno-san, of course.”
Himeno Miina froze up because of my sudden request, just looking at me in confusion…Crap, maybe I said something weird.
(Even I’d be surprised at this. I never talked with anybody about my hobby, so knowing that you’re like a comrade of mine, I probably need a few seconds to process that.)
Maybe I just ruined the mood after she already came up with a plan for our date today?
(You’re worrying too much. I told you, being open about it is just fine. Of course I—)
“W-Well, the thing is, I actually wanted to watch this anime as well, but I didn’t want to bore you with something you’re not interested in. If you’re okay with it, I’d like to watch it…together.”
“Yup, that’s fine, thanks! It starts at around the same time, so we’re still fine.”
“I should be the one thanking you. Thanks a lot…Saotome-kun.”
(Geez, all this practice and simulations for nothing. I did give you a piece of information, but you’re properly taking the lead.)
It really is thanks to you, Miena. I feel a bit bad for changing our plans like this, but if she’s happy, then that’s fine.
(She sure is happy. Look, she just raised her hair with her left hand again.)
Ohhh! That means she’s anticipating something, right? Though, I feel a bit guilty for even knowing that.
(It’s fine~ You worry too much. She gets to watch the movie she wants, so I’m jealous even.)
What are you talking about? I wanted to watch that movie with you, which is why I requested that we watch that instead.
(R-Really…? H-Hm…I see…thanks.)
Miena said with a bashful voice, and I didn’t miss how she gently raised her left hair up with her hand. Whereas Himeno Miina gave her honest gratitude, Miena instead gave an embarrassed and flustered reaction. Seeing the differences between the two, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s all thanks to Miena that I could be like this. I’m glad I worked hard to understand her.
“Then, let’s wait over at that sofa until the movie starts.”
“Ah, before that. Let me pay for my ticket. Here.”
Since Himeno Miina operated the terminal before, naturally she used her own money to buy the ticket. I should at least pay for my share, so I tried to offer her the money, but…
“I can’t accept that. I’m happy for your feelings though.”
“N-No, I can’t back down from this.”
“Hmmm…I really was planning on paying from the very beginning, after all, I invited you, right? Not to mention that you picked the movie I wanted to watch.”
I picked the movie she wanted to watch?
“Huh? Did you realize that I picked the anime for you, Himeno-san?”
“…Yeah. I just felt like you weren’t really into watching anime like this, Saotome-kun.”
“I see. But, this and that are different.”
“Hmm…that’s a blunder.”
(One more piece of advice, Itsuki-kun. I know it sounds weird coming from myself, but I can be really stubborn, so you should probably just accept this.)
Seriously? You’re saying I should stay quiet and let her treat me? I feel really bad though.
(It’s fine. If anything, it’s already enough that you didn’t expect to be treated to it from the very beginning.)
I-I see, then…
“A-Alright, I’ll gratefully accept your offer.”
“Really? Thank god. You know, that attitude is much more manly, Saotome-kun. Fufu.”
Holy smokes, she’s smiling like a blooming flower. I know! I can just buy the popcorn instead. That means she isn’t just treating me to something, but rather that it’s a solid give & take. I’m amazing! I can’t believe some mob like me arrived at that conclusion! Alright, time to head over to the—
(Wait a second. I agree that you have a point with that, but…I don’t eat popcorn while watching a movie. The chewing noises annoy me, and I won’t be able to focus on the movie.)
Are you serious!? Ahh, my wise idea…
“I-I know that popcorn is popular while watching movies, but I don’t really like eating it during the movie, a-ahaha.”
Right as we made it to the popcorn selling place, I quickly went back on my own words…Ahh, so pathetic.
“You as well, Saotome-kun? I couldn’t agree more, the sound just doesn’t let me focus on the movie. I guess we’re pretty similar? Ehehe.”
I’m saved…Without Miena’s help, things would have gone bad, but I still can’t relax just yet.
(You don’t need to go along with my preferences, you know? My real body already said it, but since I invited you, you can just act as you’d like.)
I’m watching a movie with the person I admire as the three of us, being a bit considerate is normal, right?
(Three, huh…Well, I bet the person you admire is the one grinning over there.)
Don’t get hung up on the smallest things. Also, just look at her? Her smile’s so cute.
(Yeah yeah, she’s so cute. Though, I didn’t expect her to be this honest.)
Well, she is being herself after all.
(Isn’t it because you made so much progress over the past few days, Itsuki-kun? Of course, she’s pretty easy of a heroine, but it’s amazing that you moved through so many events that smoothly.)
Yup, thanks! I don’t really get it, but at least it seems like I’m doing well. I feel relief in the face of that. Well, from my point of view, I’m on a date with two girls I like at the same time. This doesn’t feel like it’s in reality, but rather that I’m just playing some game. I might have been acting a bit unnatural so far, but this is where I’ll take the lead.
“The screening is about to start, let’s head over.”
You can enter the specific cinema room about ten minutes before the screening begins, and the announcer just let us know about that. Once the movie started, both Himeno Miina and Miena were focused entirely on the movie. Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t buy any popcorn. After the screening ended, and we returned to the sofa, we exchanged our impressions.
(Mmm! The scene where the protagonist’s feelings clashed with the heroine was great! That was even better than in the source material! That must have been hell to animate.)
I agree with the first part, but I had no way of knowing about the second. All I could tell is that it was well-adapted to the point where a newcomer to the series could understand it. Maybe I should play the game sometime.
(Right right!? I don’t mind lending it to you, but you really should buy it for yourself. Once we go back, I’ll tell you why this movie was so great as an adaptation!)
…Also, why am I just exchanging my impressions with Miena!? Himeno Miina is sitting right next to me!
(Hmpf, she seems to be thinking about something herself, so just leave her alone.)
“Himeno-san, how did you like the movie?”
“Hm? Y-Yeah, it was fun. Did you enjoy it yourself, Saotome-kun?”
“Yup! I had no idea about the source material, but it was a blast! Especially the scene where the protagonist revealed his feelings to the heroine was amazing.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I also really liked that…Ah, right. Saotome-kun, could you wait here for a moment?”
She suddenly stood up from the sofa, and walked away. I wonder where she’s going?
(There’s something more important than exchanging her impressions from the movie? …!? Ah, uhm, yeah, you don’t need to think about that, Itsuki-kun.)
What, you know where she went?
(I think so…You know…she’s answering the call of nature…What are you even making me say!?)
I have no clue…Well, whatever, She told me to wait, so I’ll do just that. I’m not in a rush or anything. Miena and I exchanged some more impressions about the movie, when Himeno Miina came back—holding a pamphlet.
“Sorry for making you wait.”
“What’s that pamphlet about?”
“It’s a pamphlet for the movie we just watched. It has differences compared to the source material pointed out, as well as some additional information they couldn’t add in the movie!”
Seeing Himeno Miina energetically talk about the movie was adorable. And, Miena taking glances at the said pamphlet with a deeply curious expression was just as cute…Ahh, such a happy time this is. If only this continued forever. Once I let down my guard like that, the weakness inside my heart reared its ugly head at me.
…I can’t. This time is nothing but a hallucination. My relationship with [Her] is not complete. She’s missing a piece of the puzzle. Not to mention that it’s a very large one. I want Miena to smile like the girl in front of me does. I want to see her that way. I want us to stand face-to-face, in the tourist sense of the word. I want to hear her gushing about the movie with my own ears.
I’ll make them turn back to normal. I’ll save both of them. If I let myself sink deeper into this happiness, I might lose both of them, and I won’t be able to live with that. I need to bring an end to this. And for this, I need to make it into the ending of this route—
“Huh~? Isn’t that Hime? What are you doing here?”
…However, that didn’t work as planned. Right as we left the cinema, we ran into a group of three girls that visibly stood out from the people around them. They seem to be friends of Himeno Miina, since they called her Hime.
“Ah, Shiraishi-san…Kii-chan and Mei-chan as well.”
(Wah, the timing couldn’t be worse for this…)
Shiraishi-san!? So they’re the trio that’s always with Himeno Miina? They were all wearing casual clothes, with faint makeup on, so they gave off a vastly different impression compared to how I knew them at school. Then again, I never have anything to do with them, so I didn’t pay much attention to them.
(They’re not my group or anything. What’s trio supposed to mean!? Am I some last boss and they’re my lakeys?!)
Who cares about that right now. The problem is that Himeno Miina and I were seen together at the cinema, so I’m worried they might get the wrong idea.
“Hime-chan, who’s that guy next to you?”
One of the girls in Shiraishi-san’s group closely inspected me.
(That girl is Mei-chan, and the other is Kii-chan. They both were there when you tried to invite my main body for lunch, remember?)
Oh yeah, that girl. I remember now, as well as all the pain I felt.
“Um, well…” Himeno Miina wasn’t sure what to say in the face of Mei-chan’s question.
If anything, she seemed to be panicking.
(What am I doing? Just introduce Itsuki-kun!)
“Hmmm? I feel like I’ve seen him before…” Kii-chan tilted her head, and tried to trace back her memories.
Is it that hard to remember me?
“Itsuki-kun is…” Himeno Miina probably wanted to respond, but couldn’t.
I can’t blame her, someone at the bottom of the school caste…a mob lowest in the school hierarchy would not even be in their minds for a split second. If so…
“H-Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Saotome Itsuki, and I’m in class 5. I’m Himeno-san’s…f-friend!”
I had to introduce myself. My accent or smoothness when it comes to conversation doesn’t matter. I just have to make sure there’s no weird atmosphere going on.
“Ehh! Hime had male friends!? We didn’t hear about this at all, though?” The boss of the group, Shiraishi-san, showed a bewildered reaction.
I could also feel a faint pressure coming from her. A member of their group went off meeting with some random guy, so from their position, the constellation of the group is being shaken here. Miena previously told me that a friendship between girls is something very complicated to keep.
Oh? Should I have said lovers instead?
(What even are friends?)
You’re ignoring me? Cool.
(Can you really call my main body your friend if she can’t even properly introduce you after you watched a movie together?)
Leaving me aside, there’s at least no mistaking it that Shiraishi-san and the other two are Himeno Miina’s friends, they’re always together after all.
(Not wrong, but I never heard them be honest with me before. So at times like these, I wouldn’t know how to react. No doubt that my real body is confused right now.)
As I’ve been a mob for a long time, I’m somewhat used to awkward encounters outside of school. Though, during these times it was only me, and I wasn’t with someone else. For example, during the party after the graduation ceremony in middle school. I didn’t feel like participating and went home on my own, when I ran into a classmate.
Or, back during a class reunion. When I ran into some classmates from my former middle school in the middle of town, I gave a slight bow and tried to walk away, when I heard words like ‘Did we call him?’ ‘No, we sure didn’t’ ‘Why is he even here then?’ and so on. It was an unexpected encounter, with me as the victim. Either way, it was awkward. Both of these incidents happened in the past year.
(That is some strong mentality you have there. I would have probably blanked out.)
I bet she never experienced something like this. That’s why I have to take the lead here.
“I-I’ve been spending some time with Himeno-san recently!”
“Seriously!? Hime’s going around with some boring guy like you, that’s hella funny!” Shiraishi-san pointed at me, and laughed.
Damn you…thinking you can say whatever you want just because you’re a bit popular…! I know that I’m boring so I can’t say anything against that, but at least don’t pull Himeno Miina into this!
(She’s only been saying that for a while now! Why am I not speaking up!?)
“Hime, is this some kind of punishment game you were forced into?”
Asked by Kii-chan, an awkward silence came from Himeno Miina. This atmosphere can’t just be pushed aside with a joke about her being bugged. Of course, there are times where she went silent when talking to me, but this and that are different. Rather than being bewildered, her gaze dropped to the ground like she was hurt.
(Itsuki-kun, I’m sorry…this is who I really am. Pathetic, right? Not being able to face the people talking to me, only witnessing how things important to me get hurt…)
Just like Himeno Miina did, Miena directed her gaze at the ground. Hell no! You’re not pathetic in the slightest. Don’t just pull Himeno Miina’s way of living and achievements through the dirt! I still admire Himeno Miina, so I won’t allow anybody to speak badly of her, not even you, Miena.
“Not to mention…what’s this pamphlet? From a movie, right?”
“Hime, what’s that~ An anime! Gross?”
It seems like Shiraishi-san’s target of attack changed from me to Himeno Miina now. However, that attack seemed to be more effective on Miena than anybody else.
“This anime is…”
Himeno Miina showed an expression filled with both sadness and anger, as she tried to give a response. Normally, Shiraishi-san would act as Himeno Miina’s support. Considering her boss-like disposition and personality, she probably saw this as a situation to get above Himeno Miina, which is why she’s on the attack now.
In their world, a mob like me never had any place. What they think of me doesn’t matter. There’s one thing I need to prioritize here. What’s truly important to me is Himeno Miina, who is also Miena. I won’t allow anybody to hurt her. Like hell I care about them, or playing along with their nonsense!
“T-T-This anime…I chose it! I wanted to watch it together with her! I-I-I-I like it after all!” I almost screamed in desperation.
Worst of all, I didn’t even really think about what I was saying, just blurting out what came to my mind.
(Eh? …Ehh!? Ehhhhh!)
“Eh? …Ehh!? Ehhhhh!”
Miina and Miena showed a perfectly synchronized reaction.
“W-What are you suddenly screaming for like that…Gross.”
Shiraishi-san’s arrogant attitude from before had vanished, as she was now looking at me in displeasure. I don’t care if they look down on me. I’ve been living my life not bothering what other people think about me. I did this myself, so I’m fine with it…However! I won’t forgive anybody who treats Himeno Miina in any derogatory way. Even if you’re friends in the same group, even if it’s my good friend or childhood friend, or even her own mental entity, I won’t let anybody make fun of what Himeno Miina holds dear. So, you won’t silence me!
“Eh, this guy likes Hime?”
“Ehh, Hime, you should probably run away, you know~!”
However, both Mei-chan and Kii-chan failed to grasp any of my intentions, and seemed to have some kind of misunderstanding. Well, it’s not really a misunderstanding either, but I need to clear that up!
“Ah, no, I was saying that I like the anime, not—”
(You don’t have to deny it…)
I heard Miena mutter behind me.
“Hime~ You should probably pick your men a bit more carefully, okay?” Shiraishi-san gave me a scornful glare, and walked into the cinema while spitting poison at me. And then, the other two followed suit, disappearing inside the cinema. What, they came here to watch a movie as well? …Or so I thought, but one of the girls came back towards us. I think her name was Kii-chan?
“Hey hey, tell me the name of that anime you watched, Hime-chan. I feel like watching it myself some other time!”
“……Eh!? Really!?” Himeno Miina’s large eyes opened even further, as she blinked in confusion.
(You’re kidding, right…Mei-chan is interested in anime!?)
When Himeno Miina told her the name of the anime, Mei-chan returned to Shiraishi-san and the other girls. It seems like they weren’t just her blind followers.
(She never showed any interest in anime, so why…)
Maybe she did, but just never really showed it? You never talked about it either, right?
Who knows, maybe she shares your hobby Miena?
(I can’t believe it…)
They treated me like trash, but for Himeno Miina, I bet it must have been an important first step.
(You’re right. But, you ended up in the middle of the crossfire.)
Don’t you worry, I just did what I wanted to. No matter how they treat me at school, I won’t regret anything.
(Itsuki-kun…You changed so much in such a short time…)
Really? Sure doesn’t feel that way.
(Fufu, it’s fine. Once I get back to my main body, I’ll make sure to be your ally, so don’t worry!)
As the exact opposite of the reassuring Miena who gave me a thumbs-up, Himeno Miina seemed mentally exhausted.
She must have been tense this entire time, as a faint sigh escaped her lips.
(What do you mean ‘Phew’, huh? Because you couldn’t get a grip, Itsuki-kun had to…Geez!)
“Are you okay?”
Leaving aside Miena, I’m a bit worried about her mental state.
“Thanks for just now. You were protecting me, right? You’re amazing, Saotome-kun, openly stating your feelings like that.”
“That’s not true at all. If anything, I’m worried that they might spread weird rumours now…Sorry.”
“All good, all good! Ehehe.” She showed me a bright smile.
“…Okay, I’ll take it.”
I’m really glad. If this acts as a trigger for her to make a true friend, then I couldn’t be happier.
“But, it’s not good that they have this misunderstanding about you, Saotome-kun. I’ll make sure to properly explain it to them at school, so don’t worry. I’m your ally after all, Saotome-kun!” Himeno Miina gave me an energetic thumbs-up.
Seems like she’s back on her feet as well.
(I-It’s not even a misunderstanding…this woman really has no clue…)
Since her appearance overlapped with Miena for a second, I was taken aback.
(You really grew a lot, Itsuki-kun. Have you realized it? Even when you’re talking with the real me, your heart isn’t racing as much anymore. You’re much more calm.)
Hm? Ahh…yeah, right…
(You’ve become a proper protagonist who can now conquer his heroines! We won this gal game for sure!)
…No, that’s not it, Miena. Yesterday, I realized my own feelings. It’s true that Himeno Miina is special, but even more than her, towards Miena I feel…
(Just now, I was panicking, but your heart was as calm as now.)
It’s the protagonist’s job to protect his heroine after all.
(…Yeah. It’s just as Rion-chan said.)
Hm? What about Rion?
(N-Nothing! But, I oddly feel refreshed now.)
Maybe it’s because you properly stood tall with your own feelings, clashed with another person, and managed to still keep your relationship? At the very least, you have the chance to build an even more profound relationship. At the same time, I also felt like a gloomy feeling inside my chest has cleared up. If you really want to get along, sometimes you can’t avoid directly clashing with the other person.
(Yeah, you’re right. I’ve been starting to feel that way myself.)
…Almost like the protagonist just now.
(If so, then why don’t you reveal your own feelings now?)
Eh!? M-Me? Towards who!?
(The heroine standing in front of you, of course.)
(Right now, you should be able to touch her.)
Ah, I-I see. That was our final goal after all…Though I feel like we’ve been pretty close already…Also, is it just me or are you rushing things a bit?
(I just want to hurry back to my main body. Today, all these feelings I had, I want to make them grow, and I can’t wait any longer.)
Yeah, that makes sense. Surely you would want to hurry back to your main body. As for me, I can’t help but…feel a bit lonely. A bit? No, that’s a lie. I don’t want Miena to know of these feelings, which is why I’ll keep them locked away deep inside my chest.
(Nothing’s being locked away, you know?)
Ugh!? Damn it, so the stronger I feel the more apparent it becomes!?
(Do you still not understand the reason I want to hurry back to my main body, you dense gal game protagonist?)
I feel like I’m being dissed again, but…whatever. Also, just to confirm it one last time, even if you return to your main body, you will keep your memories, right!? The time and memories we share together won’t just vanish, yeah!?
(You don’t need to panic like that. I’ll just return to my main body, that’s all.)
How do you even know? Maybe your instincts as a mental entity? I can only believe in that, because worrying won’t help anybody…Alright, I’ll do it. It doesn’t have to be on those stairs at school, right?
(Any place is fine.)
I-I see…I just couldn’t help but think that maybe the mood and situation are important.
(I mean, the mood is important, but the me right now probably doesn’t really care.)
Mood? Me right now?
(Oh yeah, when I said touch, I was talking about a kiss.)
I see…a kiss. That makes sense…
(It will probably be the first kiss for my main body. Then again, we share the same sensations right now, so we’re pretty much kissing the same person. It’s not exactly how I wanted my first kiss to be, but it can’t be helped. Just get it over with.)
I see, that sounds troublesome………Wait, a kissssssssssssssssssssss!? No no no no no not happening not happening not happening! I can’t clear this gal game, you hear me!?