Uehara Tasuku and Restarting After Getting Stronger
Editor: Deus ex-Machina, Ruzenor
“Ehhhh, Tasuku~~ Help Aguri catch that plushiel~~”
Aguri whined as she tugged at my sleeve, and I couldn’t help turning my head back with a pouting face.
A girl who appeared dull witted at a glance was looking up at me. She had a light tan, and her hair was dyed a faded orange. But thanks to her face and body figure, she was cute on the whole and her skills in appealing to men was top notch.
I tried putting on airs, but Aguri ignored that completely. She forcefully pulled me to the Claw Crane Game and pointed with her finger, saying: “That one, that one!”
“Ehhh, doesn’t that look sick?”
“... Ah~~ totally sick.”
Sick in a negative way. There were many cute kittens inside the Claw Crane Machine… Various plush toys that had weird changes to the usual design of the kittens, some had two long legs, others were full of muscles.
Even though I felt they were ‘sick’, but from the way Aguri squealed excitedly, her definition of ‘sick’ was probably opposite from mine… Instead of ‘ugly cute’, wasn’t ‘normal cute’ better? Or was my sense of aesthetic behind the current times?
I rubbed my neck lazily.
“... You want me to catch that one?”
“Yes! Because Tasuku is cheekily skilled in games!”
“What cheekily skilled…?”
I couldn’t help snickering. My gaming skill is much better than Aguri’s but I didn’t play much games before her at all. I think she saw me played fighting games a couple of times, so she thought I was ‘cheekily good’. Thinking that I was good with Claw Crane Machine because of that, was how people who don’t usually touch games would feel.
“Tasuku~~ catch it for me okay~~”
“Well, I don’t mind catching it… So, the hundred yen?”
“... Tasuku~~ C-Catch it for me.”
Aguri played it off with a smile. T-This girl…!
I sighed as I dug out a hundred yen coin from my wallet. Aguri who was squealing behind me might be annoying, but this wasn’t the first day she behaved like this. In fact, her frivolous style was popular among the boys… To be honest, I didn’t really get it though.
I pressed the two buttons that controlled lateral and vertical movements respectively, and made the mechanical claw reach down in the vicinity of the plushie Aguri wanted. In the end…
“Ah, such a pity~~!”
“Sigh, that’s a shame.”
Wasting a hundred yen hurts me a little, but I didn’t invest any emotion in the plushie itself at all. I turned to leave -- but my arm was grabbed strongly by Aguri.
“Once more! Tasuku, one more try! You can do it! You can definitely catch it!”
What’s with this girl? She want me to keep playing until I catch that plushie? For a game machine like this, shouldn’t she be grateful that I am willing to use my own money for one try?
To be honest, I didn’t want to humour her. But if I ignored Aguri here, it would be troublesome later. If the alternative was me having to treat Aguri to a pancake to cheer her up, since I already threw in a hundred yen, I would be better off showing off my sincerity and carry on the challenge.
With no other choice, I threw in another hundred yen, and leaned forward a little more seriously.
This time, I inspected the entire machine carefully, and found my serious face reflected on the glass.
My brown hair was carefully styled, and my brows neatly trimmed; placing emphasis on washing my face with lotion kept my skin so smooth and clean that not a spot of acne was visible; a dull silver earring was hanging from my left ear.
Ah~~ I am cool today too.
My unpleasant mood diminished a little. And behind me was my girlfriend who wasn’t that smart, but could definitely be described as cute.
Hey hey, I am a winner in life, right?
I couldn’t help peeking at my past self who was residing in a corner of my mind… And greeted the me from my middle school days. In response, the plain guy with side parting and glasses and uniform buttoned all the way up answered meekly with a smile: “That’s right.” … That guy was still the same, why can’t he smile a bit more cheerfully?
I focused on the Claw Crane machine to escape from that mindset. After spending plenty of time and carefully controlling the buttons, the mechanical claw stopped right on top of the plushie -- and slightly to the side. Aguri said unhappily:
“Ahh! Tasuku, what are you doing! How sloppy!”
“Noisy, just watch.”
After I said that, the mechanical claw slowly… descended to the position slightly off to the side. As I expected, it didn’t grab the plushie-- however, one side of the claw hooked onto the tag on the plushie splendidly.
Aguri opened her eyes wide. After the mechanical arm rose with the tag in tow, it was wobbling unsteadily, but the plushie didn’t fall. Next, it returned to the starting point… and the claw opened, dropping the plushie at the prize retrieval slot.
The next instance, Aguri took out the plushie excitedly, and showed it to me as if she was the one who caught it then said:
“How sick! It’s really fluffy! Tasuku you are really good at games~~!”
“... Don’t get too excited.”
Feeling a little embarrassed, I averted my eyes. To be honest, half of it was a fluke. I did aim for the tag, but I wasn’t good enough to be certain that it would definitely work, so the over exaggerated praise was a little troubling. Eh, getting my girlfriend to fall for me again wasn’t too bad--
“Wah~~ … Awesome…”
-- I turned and saw a male schoolmate who was wearing an Otobuki high school uniform just like us. It seemed that he just happened to see me playing the Claw Crane game as he stared blankly at the kitten plushie Aguri was holding with a dumb impressed face.
… Hmmm? This guy is...
At this moment, I realized that I knew this guy. He seemed to have noticed us at the same time. When Aguri looked at him and asked “What’s the matter?” his face blushed and he panickedly bowed at us before leaving in a hurry.
Aguri tilted his head confusedly.
“Ehh… What was that?”
“Ah, he is our classmate, although we never spoke before.”
“That’s right. But why did he run away?”
“Ehh, instead of running…”
A classmate that he wasn’t close to had a girl who seemed to be his girlfriend. Normally speaking, it would be quite difficult to chat with me in such a situation. Aguri didn’t seem to think that far, and looked baffled.
I just said: ”Doesn’t matter, it’s great that we caught the plushie.”
And so, Aguri’s mood became great as she hugged the plushie tightly in her chest… The way she intentionally hugs it with the head of the kitty facing me was really skilled… Well, that was definitely cute.
As she had something extra in her hands, we left the arcade directly and headed home.
After we exited downtown and I bid Aguri farewell, I walked by myself for a while. As I was about to take a shortcut through the park… it suddenly hit me.
Ah, that’s Amano. Amano… what’s his name? Anyway, he’s that guy from my class...
I remembered the family name of the classmate I just met, but no matter how long I thought, I couldn’t remember anything else. I smiled wryly.
Speaking of which, he was probably more plain than me in my middle school days. I wouldn’t be that impressed with someone playing a Claw Crane game. And he was in such a panic just seeing me who he never even talked to being with my girlfriend… how lame.
I smiled awkwardly as I recalled the dumb look on that plain classmate. My mood turned great for no good reason as I whistled badly and strode through the quiet residential zone.
“... Yawn… Morning~~”
I stifled my yawn as I greeted Daiki and Masaya. I dumped my schoolbag onto the table, tickled the waist of Shiyouji who was sitting at my seat, getting him to move away.
The four of us played around a little, then Masaya’s girlfriend Mika came in, followed by a girl from the light music club Reina that Shiyouji hooked up with recently. The group started chatting idly as usual.
Today’s topic was mainly about Masaya and Mika complaining about their karaoke session yesterday. Even though I commented: “That’s horrible.” the topic wasn’t that interesting. My eyes wandered carelessly in the classroom to stave off my boredom. At this moment, the boy who I never paid attention to in the past appeared in a corner of my vision suddenly.
I looked at him because I ran into him at the arcade yesterday. After observing him a while, he really was a boy without anything. It goes without saying that he had nothing to do with me, he wasn’t prominent in school at all. As far as I know, I have never heard any friends talked about him at all… For example, who he was close to, what club he was in, nothing at all. I only learned his name after looking through the class nominal roll that was placed inside the classroom.
I couldn’t help smiling wryly.
People with a sense of presence as thin as a ghost… they can be found anywhere.
If we flip through the graduation booklet during a class reunion ten years later, we will definitely have a hard time recalling his name… That’s how I felt.
Is he happy with such a plain life?
I suddenly remembered how I was in my middle school days. It was different from Amano, but my life was really dull too. I would just work hard on preparing for my high school entrance exam as instructed by my parents, and play games occasionally for entertainment. I lived my life seriously, and was influenced by the people around me to attempt the entrance exam of a high school beyond my standard… After failing, I entered my safety school Otobuki. This was treated as a scar that shouldn’t be mentioned by my family.
In the end, you can only win in life by living in the moment.
Talking about life at such a age might seem a little arrogant, but ever since I made up my mind to start over again, my life had been smooth sailing.
Right, for example, this was like ‘The ant and the grasshopper’.
The guidance of my parents was a factor, the young naive me was nurtured to have the view that I should ‘live seriously like the ant’ after hearing the story.
However, instead of the ant who had to work hard in order to save for the future, I think the grasshopper who got a share of the food just by apologizing was smarter and more worthy of respect.
… At this point, I tilted my head.
Weird? Why… am I thinking so deep about Amano’s circumstances?
When I realized it, my mood turned sour. What was going on? Amano didn’t do anything to me, we were classmates whose path didn’t cross at all. I didn’t have any reason to be this frustrated.
… Ah, no...
After thinking this far, I realized something.
Why was I so flustered when I looked at Amano? The reason was…
That guy… Why does he look so happy…?
That’s right, that was the reason why I felt flustered.
At a glance, Amano was sitting by his lonesome self in his seat, but he was smiling about something. I thought he was busy with some stuff, but he was toying with his phone. From the position of his fingers, he wasn’t texting or surfing the web, but playing games.
Now that I thought about it, this guy was always playing games by himself after class. He was happily isolated from the outside world, minding his own business without being noticed by us.
Even so, there shouldn’t be any reason that would make me flustered… Why was that? Amano was just playing games on his phone, but he looked so cheerful…
What the hell… So lame. I can’t stand it...
I couldn’t help scowling my face, and Masaya suddenly toss the topic to me.
“Isn’t that right, Tasuku!? Don’t you think that is awful? What I ordered was fried chicken, fried chicken!”
“T… True, you are right. A cold fried chicken is not even half as delicious as before.”
“Absolutely! Hmm, Tasuku, you feel me!? Please work over there~~”
“Forget it, I can’t be bothered to work.”
I faked a smile as I joined them in their idle chat. It wasn’t that boring, and everyone bickered with Masaya, such times were enjoyable too. However…
I glanced at Amano, peeking at what he was doing.
So why… Do you look happier than me?
He should be a loser in life, but the face he was showing seemed happier than me who was chatting with my friends, and I felt dissatisfied by this. Just what was he so happy about?
“? What’s the matter Tasuku? Feeling unwell?”
Reina who saw my sour face asked.
I was panicking in my heart, but I still found an out for myself.
“Nothing, I just got a bit unhappy after listening to what Masaya described.”
I pretended to be angry, and the pure Masaya seemed to be very moved.
“Oh, my dear friend! Tasuku, you really are a good guy!”
“You didn’t know? That’s right, no matter what, I will always take the side of… Mean customers.”
Everyone retorted, then laughed out loud. I didn’t care about the classmates who turned our way, wondering what happened as I laughed dumbly with my friends.
What am I doing? Why should I care about someone like Amano… Alright.
And so, I made up my mind again.
“Don’t be annoying! I am a good guy! Before this, Aguri even asked me--”
I pushed the plain nerdy classmate out from my mind, and resumed my rowdy everyday life.
Until a few days later, when the famous Tendo Karen came to chat with Amano.
After class was over, Class 2F would split into groups of various sizes, chatting idly together and creating a noisy atmosphere.
Among them, our group of six was exceptionally influential.
Leaving our numbers aside, the six of us were the type with lots of acquaintances and friends in class, and would naturally influence the overall atmosphere of class 2F.
When we laugh, the emotions in class would become high; when we rage, the tension of the other people would rise.
And so, whether class 2F was rowdy or not was mostly dependent on us.
The school idol Tendo Karen suddenly graced us with her presence, and the entire class turned silent.
Tendo… Why is she...
I couldn’t help holding my breath because of the blonde schoolmate standing at the entrance of the class. The first to notice Tendo was Mika who was always looking around her. From the angle she was looking from, she already saw Tendo walking along the corridor. But at that moment, Mika just treated it as a part of the conversation, pointing to the corridor as she said: “Ehh, look, it’s Tendo-san…”
When we heard Mika, we all turned to look at the face of the rare beauty… At this moment.
We noticed this at the same time… and were all stunned by the fact that Tendo was about to enter Class F.
Influenced by our silence, everyone in class noticed Tendo’s existence─
She surveyed the classroom from the entrance, and smiled as if she found a lost treasure. Then─
“Ah, found you, Amano-kun!”
─ Nobody expected that… Tendo was here for the person who was furthest away from her in a sense, Amano Keita.
All the chatter in class stopped instantly, and then… following Tendo’s actions, we all focused our gaze on Amano.
At the same time, I was feeling agitated for some reason.
… Why would she find someone like Amano...
It was similar to the ‘frustration’ I felt about Amano a few days ago, the same emotion was reignited in my heart.
Amano seemed to be shaken by Tendo’s appearance and being the center of attention in class too. His plain face was even more stiff now, and he couldn’t even smile… Agitation mixed in with several other complicated emotions were gradually expanding in my chest.
On the other hand, Tendo who didn’t seem to mind the gaze of the crowd strode forth confidently and approached Amano’s seat nimbly. When she was before his desk… She leaned to look at the phone Amano was toying with in an intimate way.
Some of our classmates finally made some wavering noise, and sound returned to the classroom.
Tendo seemed to be talking about something to Amano, but because of the whispering everywhere, I couldn’t hear what they were saying clearly.
The only thing I could tell was that Tendo was talking to Amano rather one sidedly. Games, promise, library… I heard these terms, but I couldn’t grasp the contents of their conversation.
As the class was getting anxious, Amano seemed to have nodded at Tendo hurriedly several times. And the next instant─
Tendo smiled and enchanted the entire class. At the same time, when everyone noticed that she was smiling just at Amano, the wavering in our heart increased and the noise level went up a notch.
However, the bell announcing that class would be starting soon rang as if if on cue, and Tendo said hurriedly: “Ah, I have to go now. See you after school, Amano-kun!” She said in an intimate tone and left right away.
When the entire class was dumbfounded, and Amano who was left behind watched Tendo leave in a daze─
Shiyouji beside me muttered something that left a deep impression on my mind.
“What the heck was that…”
These words seemed to represent how the entire Class 2F felt.
But before I could gossip with my friends, the teacher came in to start the next lesson, so it left a strange ‘itch’ in the heart of everyone in class.
I laid out my textbook and notebook onto my table, and pretended to listen to class as I thought about Amano. Unfortunately, from the seat assignment, I couldn’t see Amano who was beside the window at the back of the classroom from my seat in the middle, but he was definitely…
Showing a cocky face that is saying ‘did you all see that?’
Once I imagined that, my unpleasant mood wouldn’t stop.
The plain loner nerd who was suddenly chatted up by the number beauty in the entire school.
This was like the story from a boring trash light novel. The subject might be having the time of his life, but from the perspectives of the people around him, there was nothing that was more disgusting than this. I knew very well that was jealousy or ‘sour grapes mentality’, but so what? That was my true feelings right now. In fact, most of my classmates more or less felt annoyed by this.
That might be so, I was aware that I my reaction was bigger than others.
After all… I didn’t meet with such a wonderful salvation in middle school… Damn it!
I got angrier the more I thought about it. Amano Keita. As I couldn’t see his face, I imagined that he was showing a smug face. Even ignoring that, I was still…
… Who would be happy to see a plain nerd who didn’t put in any effort to obtain happiness out of nowhere… Arghh, so annoying!
I took out my stationeries in a rough manner.
After that, I stabbed the lead of my mechanical pencil into my white eraser again and again.
The next afterclass break, the classroom was covered in a strange atmosphere. Even though the groups were all chatting as usual, but the topic revolves around Amano and Tendo. It was the same for us, especially the two girls who were speculating blindly.
As for me… To be honest, I think the act of ‘chatting about this topic’ would make Amano happy, so I didn’t participate too keenly. However, when Reina asked cheerfully: “So, what exactly are their relationship?”, I couldn’t help responding.
“Reina, what do you think?”
“Hmm? Me? Ehh~~ That’s hard to say. It will be fun if it is love related. Well, to be honest, it doesn’t feel that way, saying they are friends is unrealistic too. They felt more like official business contacts?”
“You mean, the two of them got acquainted through club society or their jobs?”
That felt close to the truth. As I was about to let it go, Mika who loves to gossip made a ‘Hmm~~’ sound.
“That is boring~~ And actually, I remember that Tendo-san didn’t join any committees or clubs right? And to be frank, I don’t think she works part time.”
Masaya nodded in agreement to Mika’s opinion.
“That’s right. Tendo’s family is rich right? And also, I don’t have any impression of Amano working or joining clubs.”
“Or rather, Amano didn’t leave much of an impression at all.”
Daiki’s words made everyone laugh. I joined in too, but my laugh was superficial.
As we slowly went off topic and everyone started fooling around─
I noticed that… I couldn’t let my unhappy mood go, and treated this as an entertaining piece of gossip like everyone else.
What the… Having so much fun talking about Amano. Are you all retards? How boring.
I peeked at Amano. Even though he was intimidated by the gaze of the entire class, he seem unconcerned with the surroundings, and was looking at his desk with sparkling eyes. I was wondering what he was doing, but he seemed to be engrossed in his game. He wasn’t playing with his phone, but a handheld console.
… Hmmp, what a loner. Are games that fun?
There was a time when I was addicted to games. During the spare time I had while preparing for exams, I found the large arcade machines really interesting. And with the unique sense of space it had, it was a refuge for my soul during middle school. That was why I would be as excited as Pavlov’s dog whenever I step into an arcade. However…
At least the time I spent chatting between classes with my friends are more meaningful than games. That guy is just hiding in his own world, engrossed in his games...
Even though we were the same age, I detested him with a ‘kids these days’ sort of feeling. I couldn’t stand it.
… Well, other than Amano, there were a few others who spent the time after class by themselves, but somehow, I didn’t feel flustered when I look at them. I only felt pissed off about Amano… Because of his expression when he looks at the screen of the game.
Thinking back, that guy had always been showing such a face after class. He didn’t laughed out loud, and was simply staring at the screen with a dumb smile, as if he was enjoying a little piece of happiness. That was why he could blend into the rowdy atmosphere in class despite being a loner, and won’t become a subject in others conversation for better or worse, or remain in other’s vision.
Not for me… It felt like he was making a dig at me. After all, even though I was surrounded by friends, I felt from the bottom of my heart that the things they were talking about was boring, and my smile was completely fake.
… What… You got a problem with that? Don’t look down on interpersonal relations.
Even though Amano didn’t say anything, I averted my eyes from him.
… I will find Aguri and play in the arcade after school.
I didn’t know why I decided on that. And because I could look forward to that, I was able to make it through the entire day of Tendo and Amano topic.
And so, school ended like what I was hoping for.
After finishing up on cleaning duties, I met up with my cute girlfriend at the school gate.
Alright, we will set off to the arcade happily. But on the way there─
“Oh right, Tasuku, that Amano something is in the same class as you right?”
─ When I heard Aguri said that…
I felt faint, as if I was lost in a nightmare.
Aguri who was walking beside me didn’t notice my face was tense, and kept going on while swinging her school bag around.
“It was an uproar in Class C too. The famous Tendo-san actually went to find a male schoolmate from another class─”
“─ So noisy!”
I couldn’t help yelling, and scared Aguri into stopping in her tracks. I glared at her for a moment, but noticed I had lost my composure and soothed her:
“It’s nothing, nothing. It’s fine…”
Strange, my tongue was not working well. I seemed to have reverted to my middle school self.
I squeezed out a stiff smile to the stunned Aguri.
“I-I’m sorry. I think… Let’s not go to the arcade today, and go home straight alright?”
“Huh? A-Alright… It’s okay… Tasuku, are you feeling unwell?”
Aguri looked my way with a face of concern. But I hid how I felt and only told her: “I’m just not in the mood.” and kept walking.
Aguri caught up with me but still couldn’t read the mood and talked about Amano again.
“And so, that Amano boy, what do you think he is like ─”
“I’m telling you!”
I said in a heavy tone and cut her off forcefully.
“There couldn’t be any guy who is good enough for Tendo in a school like Otobuki.”
“Hmm? Is that so?”
Aguri thought naively. I sighed and continued:
“It is a miracle that Tendo actually enrolled in this school with such low entrance grades. In fact, people from elite schools and baseball club members from famous schools would confess to her every other day. Why would a girl like that look for a suitor from the bottom feeder guys in Otobuki…?”
“Ah, but I think that you and Tendo-san match rather well, Tasuku.”
When I heard something that didn’t sound like what a girlfriend would say, I turned my head in surprise. But Aguri didn’t seem to mind at all… She had the same dull look as usual, and said calmly with a smile:
“You are handsome with good points too, and is amazing at everything you do. You two would be a perfect match.”
“... That’s right.”
I felt disheartened… This girl is the same as usual, just how do her nerves look like? Where in the world would you find someone naive enough to say her own boyfriend is a good match for other girls… I couldn’t stand her.
Speaking of which, the reason I started dating Aguri was really casual too. When I debuted successfully in the high school social world, I bid farewell to my dark middle school days and was making a lot of friends, she confessed to me on a certain day in winter even though we just met: “Uehara, let’s start dating~~” The fact was, Aguri looked really cute, and with no reason to turn her down, I started dating her out of nowhere. That happened about half a year ago.
… After that, the things we had actually done was just playing together like this after school. And we both had plenty of friends, so we didn’t stick to each other on non school days, and didn’t go on any proper date before. We didn’t create any nice atmosphere, so things like kissing or beyond didn’t even need to be mentioned.
… I was a healthy high school boy too. Even though I was filled with lust, but for some reason, probably because Aguri being the one who confessed, I had some strange pride that stopped me from taking the initiative to do anything to her. But Aguri also maintained this pace, so our relationship developed into playmates who could talk about anything without worries, while our boy girl relationship didn’t move forward one bit. In the end, I couldn’t really grasp the difference between Aguri and my other female friends, so I couldn’t be more ‘aggressive’ with her.
… That might be so, but we were still a couple, so saying things like ‘you match Tendo-san well’ is too insensitive.
I glared at Aguri’s eyes.
“So you are determining if we match by our looks?”
“Huh? Yes! You are handsome after all, and Tendo-san is cute just like me!”
“... How stupid.”
I already thought that Aguri was a stupid girl, but I didn’t expect her to be this retarded. She probably confessed to me for my looks anyway, it would be a joke to describe it as love at first sight. Really now, women these days… Wait, I shouldn’t use Aguri as the standard. Mika and Reina might be frivolous, but not this bad… sigh.
It is true that dating a girl like Tendo might be a happy ending...
If I was choosing a partner solely on looks, she would be the top choice. No, it was the same for her personality. At least, if I was dating her, our relationship wouldn’t be as tiring like Aguri and mine was. Even chatting would be a joy, if anyone could monopolize Tendo’s intimate smile and shy expression, be it boy or girl, they would be captivated by her… That was why…
Why did that girl just have to choose Amano…?
Probably because Aguri said I was compatible with Tendo, my flustered emotions came back… Arggh, enough already! I felt like asking myself what was wrong with me! I kept thinking about Amano, Amano!
In a fit of the moment, I grabbed Aguri’s hand crudely.
“Come Aguri, let’s go home!”
“Huh? Eh, but I am not going in that direction, Tasuku…”
After she reminded me, I realized we were at the splitting point where we should be heading home separately. I felt my face heating up a little, but I couldn’t take my words back, so I pulled Aguri to conceal my embarrassment.
“I-It’s fine! Aguri, a-accompany me home some time!”
Even I would feel that a guy like this would be too much of a brute. What the hell? It’s fine for a boyfriend to walk her girl home, but forcing his girlfriend to walk home with him doesn’t even happen in the olden patriarchal society, and was just plain retarded.
I made up my mind to let go of her hand and dash back home once Aguri rejects me. However, it just happened that my girlfriend couldn’t read the mood…
“... Uwah. Alright, I will send you home~~!”
Aguri was all smiles for some reason, and accepted my suggestion excitedly… Since she said that, I couldn’t turn her down now.
“Ugh… A-Alright! I will let you walk me home!”
Aguri held my hand again with glee… Eh, what’s with this girl… And what’s with me today…?
In the end, it’s all Amano’s fault!
After deflecting all the responsibility, I managed to keep a steady mind… And walked home all lovey dovey with Aguri depressed.
… How unfathomable…
Ugh, enough already, what is this...
The next morning, in class 2F.
I had thrown aside all the frustration and doubts from yesterday, but I was still stunned. Not just me, the entire class was the same after witnessing ‘that scene’. It would be hard not to, after seeing ‘that scene’.
‘That scene’ ─ refers to…
Amano… dumped Tendo Karen!
Amano rejected Tendo about something, and with tears of vexation in her eyes, she left Class F with a flushed face ─ What an unbelievable scene.
After witnessing that scene that could very well herald the end of times, the classroom fell into utter chaos.
“Huh? What happened? This is the first time I have seen Tendo-san looked so vexed…”
“Yeah, that’s obviously emotional entanglement!”
Mika and Masaya said in a volume loud enough that Amano might hear them, even Daiki, Shiyouji and Reina were discussing it too. They said that it sounded something like clubs, Tendo’s reaction being abnormal, and even suggested asking Amano.
They asked for my opinion too, but I answered disinterestedly. During all this while, I was staring right at Amano.
Honestly, just what are you thinking…?
Despite what just happened, Amano was still toying with his phone happily. Even though he seemed depressed and regretful momentarily, after he looked at his phone and smiled, he reverted to that ‘Amano who smiles happily even though he was playing with his phone alone’.
… He rejected Tendo’s invitation, so why is he showing such a face…?
I gulped. Instead of frustration, I felt more crept out. However, I got the gist of their relations.
Tendo probably invited Amano to join a certain club yesterday. As she was exceptionally loud today, we could hear this part clearly.
However… Amano turned her down coldly… He actually turned her down.
For Tendo, this was an unexpected turn of events. Her face turned red midway, and even left with an expression that she rarely showed… Even though this wasn’t a matter about love, the class would still riot. After chattering noisily for a while, Mika looked towards Amano and muttered:
“This feels… a little annoying…”
After hearing something unexpected from Mika, I shifted my gaze away from Amano. Mika said a little flusteredly: “No, it’s nothing deep…”
After opening unconfidently, she continued:
“I think he is putting on airs… A-After all, he was invited kindly, would normal people reject this?
What surprised me was that the other three agreed with what Mika said. Even though I was annoyed with Amano in the beginning, I couldn’t keep up with their train of thoughts and started defending Amano:
“Well, there is probably some reasons we don’t know?”
This time, Reina doubted my opinion: “Is that so?”
“If there is some compelling reason, Tendo won’t show such a face right?”
“From what I am seeing, I think she was rejected because of Amano’s state of mind.”
Reina had a keen eye in observing others. That was true. If there was a good reason, Tendo’s expression would show that it was a shame, and she wouldn’t react that way.
Shiyouji who had the aura of being a ‘follower’ in the group sighed in resignation, and mumbled:
“He is the receiving party, yet he still wants to keep up his ego, how unsightly.”
When I heard him say that, I felt a fire surge up within me for some reason. I couldn’t help lashing out at Shiyouji:
“... We are all students from the same school year, so there isn’t any higher or lower status anyway.”
“Huh? Eh, what’s with you, Tasuku?”
I only realized after seeing Shiyouji acting a little shaken up… What lofty things was I talking about? Yes, there were higher and lower status. In fact, I thought that Amano was lower down the totem pole than me right? So what was I saying…
The quick witted and calm Daiki noticed that I was shaken up, and helped to smooth out the situation.
“But I do feel that Amano is looking down on people today.”
It was a brilliant way of putting it. Thanks to that, what I said earlier could be interpreted as me feeling annoyed by ‘Amano looking down on others. The truth was, such a flawed explanation couldn’t smooth out the conversation that well, but Shiyouji and I were both happy to accept it, and the discussion moved on.
I was relieved and rejoined the conversation. We discussed about Tendo and Amano passionately up until the bell rang.
I felt guilty about spoiling the mood for a short instance, and worked hard in talking about delusions and nonsensical speculations for laughs…
But whenever there was a pause, my gaze would be drawn to Amano who was playing games happily by himself.
After school, I visited the arcade myself because Aguri couldn’t make it at the last moment. After visiting it one time, I would unconsciously visit it several more times. I was very particular about things, and would focus single mindedly into things I was engrossed in.
I remembered that was the reason why I kept my distance from games when I prepared for my high school entrance exams…
As I walked along the streets, I recalled this. Why had I thought until a moment ago that the reason I strayed away from games was because I was ‘tired of it’ or ‘faded interest’? Even though I really like games, and only managed to pull through by keeping my distance.
From this perspective, it was only natural for my passion to be reignited after I started visiting the arcade with Aguri.
After I reached the arcade, I walked around the entire facility. Even though it was not that easy to bring in new machines, the rewards of prize machines do change frequently. My taste was different from Aguri, and I wasn’t interested in plushies. But I found something I kind of liked today and stopped in my tracks.
That’s… a game cartridge?
Several cartridges for the last gen portable game console was placed inside the 500yen per game machine as prizes, as if it was a bazaar for second hand goods. As this was a rare situation and I found a game that I wanted to play in middle school but skipped in order to prepare for entrance exams, I put in 500 yen before I realized it.
I was surprised by how moved I was as I controlled the mechanical arm and aimed. The old game was probably cheap, and the packaging had a spot that could be hooked on, a kind design.
I maneuvered the mechanical arm and hooked the tag splendidly, and the prize moved waveringly to me. It fell with a dull thud. To be honest, I felt this wasn’t the proper way of treating the game, but it was hard to complain about it either.
After I took the prize, I sighed and wondered why I picked this game after all this time─
"Wah, so strong."
─ Right after that, I heard a familiar voice from my side. I turned and it was like Déjà vu… An impressed Amano was standing there with sparkling eyes.
I showed a speechless and perplexed face as I looked at Amano. He probably realized he said something after that and started blushing and panicking.
… He doesn’t look like someone who would reject Tendo so completely...
Thinking carefully, Amano looked really shady when he wasn’t playing games, and was a normal pitiful loner… Will his personality change when games were involved?
I thought as I stared at Amano, and he was completely flustered… He still mustered courage out of somewhere and walked towards me. He then bowed.
"Ah, I am Amano! The Amano from your class!"
"I know that."
I answered casually. But this fellow didn’t seem to read the mood, ignored my attitude and inched closer. He then… pointed at the game I won as a prize in my hand.
“T-This! You are amazing, Uehara-san! You caught a plushie the other time too!"
“H-Huh? Erm, it’s nothing… just lucky…"
What was going on? Why was this guy talking to me? It was too unexpected, so I didn’t know how to react.
As I was thinking about various stuff, Amano continued:
"Erm, U-Uehara-san, do you like games? W-Why did you pick this prize…?"
“Hmm? Ah… Not really, this is just lucky. There was a game I felt like playing…”
“Huh, which game is it?”
Amano got even closer. What was with him? A nerd to the very core?
I felt he was annoying, but still answered:
“A game called ‘Paradigm of Fantasia’...”
Amano’s eyes lit up for some reason. I didn’t want to foray into this, but I could understand that people like him seem to like this game series.
The Fantasia games were a rather famous RPG series. It was similar to Dragon Quest, each iteration was a standalone story. The title doesn’t use numbers, but changes the ‘xxx’ in the game title of ‘XXX of Fantasia’. By the way, the first game was called ‘blah Fantasia’, a timeless game that had been remastered several times.
And the battles were side scrolling action games. That was why the gameplay fitted me who prefer fighting games really well, and I played several games in this series. However, I had to prepare for my exams when the latest game was released, and I had to give up on games and abandon the series.
Other then that, just from the packaging and promotion videos, I couldn’t deny that the art style and story of this series was trending towards nerds. I felt embarrassed about touching them, and started shying away. I couldn’t get use to the illustrations in recent years…
Amano didn’t know I had such complicated feelings started chatting with me enthusiastically, based on the fact that I like this series.
“This is a masterpiece! Uehara-san, if you like this series you have to play this!”
“I-Is that so?”
“Yes! When the entire series was maturing, the developers claimed that they want to ‘revolutionize the concept of gaming’ before pushing out this iteration. After it retails, people realized it followed the traditional formula of the Fantasia series, and it was swamped by critical reviews. But in actual fact, it was really well made! That’s why I am so confident about recommending this to you!”
“Well, even with your guarantee…”
Instead of Amano’s taste, I would rather refer to the comments on Amazon. As I started to scratch my head, wondering what I should do next, Amano seemed to have snapped out of it. His face turned red, and he moved away from me and shrivelled his body.
“I-I’m sorry! I let it got to my head…”
“Eh, it’s okay… Ah~~ Sorry, I must have given you a fright.”
I was also reflecting on it. At the very least, I shouldn’t use such an attitude to treat a classmate who came to me with kind intentions. So I decided to take a step back, alongside Amano. Amano laughed awkwardly, then raised his head and looked at me apologetically.
“Eh, well, I did something stupid recently, and missed the chance to befriend fellow games enthusiasts... That’s why I went crazy and thought it was a good chance when I saw you caught a prize twice in a row in crane games, and got too excited… I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t need to apologize… Ah~~ … Erm, thanks for coming to chat with me.”
“Huh? Ah, I get it…”
We then turned silent while facing each other… What was this? A matchmaking date?
As I was having a headache about what to do, Amano lowered his head out of concern for me and said: “Ah, I will make a move first…” Then turned his back to me.
Amano hurried along to another area with arcade machines. I watched his movement with complicated feelings for a moment─ And…
What the hell… Is he doing...?
Amano wanted to try the newest fighting game, but was afraid that someone would sit in the machine opposite him for a fight, so he withdrew. He then looked for a single player arcade machine, but they just happened to be full right now. He ended up in front of the machine for ‘Tank Wars’, and was hesitating about playing it. Well, Tank Wars was a fun game…
Could it be… He likes video games, but isn’t used to the arcade environment?
It was true that there was a gulf between arcade players and home console players. Although I was the type who played both sides frequently, many people only come in contact with one side. From the way Amano looked, he definitely belonged to the home console faction.
Amano started dazing and wandering about─ This time, a student from another school clicked his tongue at Amano, even though Amano didn’t get in anyone’s way. That affected him deeply and he became really depressed… W-What the hell was he doing?
In the end, Amano didn’t play anything and walked out of the arcade depressingly─
“Wait wait wait!”
I couldn’t help chasing after Amano, and put a hand on his shoulder. Amano looked back at me confusedly, his face was just like a baby rabbit that had been abandoned by its mother!!
I scratched my head… then grunted exasperatingly: “Ah~~ enough!” then looked Amano in the eyes.
"Hey Amano, can you accompany for a while?"
Amano who was chatted up by me opened his eyes wide. His face was getting redder…
“Ah, I-I’m not interested in guys─"
“Don’t pull such a old cliche even if you want to run. How about it? Want to play together? Or not?”
"… Please allow me to accompany you."
Amano pleaded with his head low.
I shrugged in haplessly.
Not thinking carefully about it, what was I doing… I couldn’t help holding my temple to ease my headache.
The game Amano picked was originally a home console RPG, but in response to its popularity, an arcade fighting game was made for it. The story was also a continuation after the ending of that RPG, that was why Amano who loved that game made up his mind to visit an arcade he normally wouldn’t visit.
Amano scratched his head shyly as he queued to play the game together with me.
“I came here before, but as expected of the newest game, it was always occupied. Even if it was empty for a moment, someone else would play it immediately, that’s why I felt bad about watching the cutscenes and story leisurely.”
That’s right, I met Amano here last time too. So he went straight home that time then… Just how negative was he? It was dumbfounding… However…
"Ah, it’s nothing…"
Amano peeked at me after I suddenly stopped talking… The truth was, the more I learn about his character… the greater the dissonance he had from my impression of him because of Tendo’s incident.
Unable to hold back, I asked him directly:
"Amano, erm… What is your relationship with Tendo?"
Oh crap, my face is heating up. I was very conscious of such a senseless question, and it was draining on my psyche to even ask. If it was Aguri, she would ask it nonchalantly. But it was true that this thing had been nagging at my heart.
My rude question… made Amano smile a little troubledly.
“I-I see, that incident at the end of class… You saw it too right, Uehara-san?"
“Yes…. S-Sorry, if it is a private issue, then there’s no need to─"
“Ah, no, it’s not that serious!”
Amano waved his head hurriedly. I decided to question him further.
“It sounded like you rejected a club invitation…”
“Ah, you already know that much. Ugh~~... Well, considering the nature of that club, I hope you can keep this between us…”
After making that clear, Amano, he told me the briefly what happened between him and Tendo. To be honest, it wasn’t that big of a deal after hearing it. He just happened to meet Tendo, and was invited to join her club, that’s all. I was surprised that the club was a ‘Gamers Club’, but everything else was a normal run of the mill. Invited to join a club, Amano went to visit it. However, if there was something unusual about this story, that would be…
“And so? Why didn’t you join the Gamers Club? To be honest, I still don’t understand your explanation about that crucial part. What exactly is the difference between the Gamers Club and the the games you want to play?”
I asked while I checked if the player in front of us had finished their bout. Amano then showed a very troubled face.
“Eh… how should I put this? Erm~~... It’s hard to explain…”
“But, don’t you want to meet friends you can talk about games with?”
“T-That is true… Ugh—…"
Amano stammered, and the frustration that was gone came back to me again… Sigh, damn it. Why do I feel so annoyed whenever I see him? Even I wasn’t sure what I am so caught up about, which made it even more infuriating.
“Ah, Uehara-san, look. Two seats facing each other have just been vacated! Let’s go play there!”
“Hmm… Ah, okay.”
Just when I turned silent, two spots opened up at the machines, and we quickly filled them… To be honest, I was saved. With how I was just now, who knows what I would say to Amano. I was certain that I would vent at him unreasonably because of the frustration I felt.
Anyway, let’s play a game and cool down.
I checked and didn’t see anyone aside from us queuing for this machine. After Amano was satisfied with looking at the opening scenes and the character intro, I inserted a hundred yen coin and was ready to fight him.
“You don’t want to see the story mode?”
I asked Amano from the other side of the machine. He raised his voice and answered:
“Yes. I will enjoy that part when the home console version is published. Let’s fight, Uehara-san!"
“Okay. Be mesmerized by my splendid technique.”
“Hold back a little alright?”
I wanted to play with memes, but Amano answered me seriously, so it felt a little embarrrassing.
If it was Aguri, she would laugh like an idiot… huh?
What am I doing? Wasn’t I feeling really great that I didn’t come to the arcade with Aguri, and happy about the peace and quiet? Stop kidding, she will just scream like a banshee if she was here.
I focused on the screen again, and Amano already chose his character. The cliche main character. This was a steady choice when playing a game for the first time…
Then I will choose…
I fiddled with the selection cursor, and after pondering for a little, I chose a character that looked powerful and hard to control. The other side reacted in surprise.
“Hmm, Uehara-san, have you played this game before?”
“No, this is my first time. I just like the design of this character.”
“Ah… I see.”
Amano’s voice sound stupefied… and happy at the same time. I tilted my head, not sure what was the meaning behind his reaction. But the battle began immediately, and I concentrate on the game.
Amano had the posture of a gamer, and his control skills were much better than Aguri. He won’t jerk the joystick about randomly like Aguri. However, that was why…
… Maybe he is weaker than Aguri...
People who input commands randomly was unexpectedly difficult to deal with in a fighting game. Even though they were not ‘strong’, but as they completely gave up on defense and psychological warfare, they could score quite a number of hits with their unorthodox attacks despite their stiff controls.
That’s why, when talking about which type of players were the weakest, that would be…
Amano… You are really easy to read.
A player who knew the controls and used moves without any innovation was the easiest to defeat.
Amano was a classic example. His modus operandi was as follows:
- To confirm the move set, he would try to use each of them once.
- After learning simple projectile attacks, he would rely on them completely.
- If his attacks were blocked or dodged too many times, he would lose his composure and close in.
- He would close in by randomly jumping.
- And use only strong attacks, which would get blocked.
- Forget there were throw attacks for some reason.
- If counterattacked, he would panic and just keep defending.
- And naturally, he would get thrown.
- He would remember with a start that throws existed.
- And then try to forcefully throw his opponent, and get hammered in the process.
- When his hitpoints get very low, he would try to use super moves.
- Focus too much on the complicated input commands and miss the timing of using the moves.
- In the end, he lost to the simple move of jump light kick.
“Wah! U-Uehara-san, you are so strong!”
“You are the one who is too weak!”
I couldn’t help retorting over the machine, this fellow’s fighting scheme was too forthright! Even a grade schooler these days would be more cunning than him!
As Amano was groaning on the other side, the second round began. This game used a best of three system, it would be over if I win this match.
After seeing how weak Amano was in the first round, I gave him a bit of handicap and tried out some moves─ And…
Huh, what is this move of his… Oh, it’s a taunt?
This was a common design in recent fighting games. Taunts. It didn’t have much meaning behind it, but it showcased the unique features of the various characters who made interesting moves.
I can’t stand this, he isn’t strong, but act so arrogantly… Alright.
I responded with a taunt of my own… However─
What, he used a second type of taunt against me? There are so many taunting moves in this game?
I looked at the sticker that showed the controls. At the corner, there was a small print about ‘Taunt 2’... No no no, Amano, remembering this thing is too strange!
I was a bit stunned, but I still responded with taunt 2. I then heard Amano muttering from the other side of the machine…
“What’s so amazing!? What exactly is your standards!? There isn’t much time, I’m coming!”
“W-Wah! T-Take this, ultimate skill ‘super defence’!”
My character who was throwing a light punch got thrown back! Amano seemed really pleased.
“This is the ultimate defensive skill that depletes the power gauge to reflect all attacks!”
“It is strong, but you used it at the completely wrong time!”
After lecturing Amano who wasted his entire power gauge, and even used my character’s ultimate skill to finish him off in retaliation.
Amano yelled at the other side: “Uwah~~!” … This fellow was usually quiet, but he showed huge reactions when playing games.
After finishing the match, as the winner, my character could continue with the story mode. It couldn’t be helped since I won, so I will just play a little─
『Here comes a new challenger!』
"Why did you put in 100 yen!"
I roared as I peeked at the other side of the machine. Amano then looked my way sheepishly.
“Eh, no one is queuing anyway. It’s fun fighting with you, and before I knew it…”
“Hey, you are really…”
This guy was really head strong when gaming was involved. I sat back down in resignation.
Oh, so I can switch my character when a new challenger joins mid way. Alright...
It’s a good chance, so I changed my character and waiting for Amano. When the match started, Amano’s avatar wasn’t the main character anymore.
When he saw the character I was using, Amano looked surprised.
"Huh? Uehara-san, you switched your character."
"Yes. I was given the option to do that."
"But… You seemed to like the design of the previous character, and is getting used to the controls right? Is this fine?"
? What kind of question is this? Although I didn’t really get him, I still replied frankly:
“It’s more fun to try more characters right? You also changed your character.”
“Ah, n-nothing! Nothing at all! J-Just that, it’s natural to want to try out other characters!”
What the hell. Amano’s voice sounded really chirpy. Did I say something strange? Hmm─
And so we started our second match. Amano was weak as usual as he used strange moves he learned from somewhere that was not really practical… I felt that defeating me was a secondary objective to him.
With such an opponent before me, I had no intention to be too aggressive, and used all sorts of move sets in response.
Even though the match was retarded and low level…
… I never knew that playing games this way can be so interesting...
How I was at home aside, I had always acted seriously in arcades, but it didn’t feel too bad having a match with Amano. I was used to playing with Aguri anyway, and I might uncover new things with such debauchery.
As I started playing around in the second match, it turned out really messy, and ended with Amano’s victory. We were just a few steps away, but Amano still rushed to my side and looked at me with a blushed face:
"This is fun, Uehara-san!"
“Y-Yes… it’s not too bad.”
Even though I wasn’t as excited as Amano, it was true that I had a blast, so I averted my eyes and answered him. Amano looked really blissful when he smiles.
Ah… That’s his usual face that appears when class is out… That expression.
It was obvious how blissed he was. His face was more relaxed than I imagined… It was making me a little embarrassed.
I looked around me and asked Amano:
“What’s next, what shall we play?”
I only noticed I made a mistake after saying it. Damn it, why did I invite Amano to play some other game? He already achieved his goal… The environment of the arcade made me act in the same way I did when I was with Aguri. The relaxed smile of Amano being similar to Aguri was part of the reason.
To conceal my embarrassment, I continued:
“The… The result of the matches earlier is 1 - 1. That feels dissatisfying.”
“Hmm… R-Right! You are right! That’s it, Uehara-san!"
When I suggested having another match, Amano showed a smile that was happy from the bottom of his heart.
I can’t stand it… Why did someone who showed me such an expression rejected Tendo’s invitation?
As I was thinking about that, I realized that I hadn’t asked Amano the reason why he rejected the invitation to the Gamers Club.
But when I see Amano’s smile, it was hard for me to bring up that topic…
“Uehara-san! Why don’t we play that game next, that one!”
“That one… Hey, isn’t that a laser gun shooting game? There’s no versus mode!”
“Ah, right… Yes, but it looks like it would be fun for co-op, so let’s play it!”
“What logic is that-- Hey!”
Amano becomes a different person when games are involved, and I had no choice but to follow.
And so, I was dragged by the excited Amano all around the arcade for an hour.
“Alright, Uehara-san, what shall we play next!?”
I couldn’t help glaring at Amano who was so full of energy after all this time.
“Hey Amano, you have been using a match with me as an excuse to play all the arcade games you want to try but couldn’t because you are alone right?”
“Huh? N-No such thing.”
Amano averted his eyes and tried whistling even though he couldn’t. I was dumbfounded, but didn’t continue to resist and started browsing for the next game.
The truth was, I was having a blast playing games with Amano. His skills were bad, just a bit better than Aguri, but his reaction was interesting… He gave the impression that he was enjoying games from the bottom of his heart, even I was influenced by that aura of his.
And the strange thing was, after playing my heart out with Amano, I could subtly understand why he didn’t join the Gamers Club.
How should I put this… Aguri and this guy… are both really pure.
What exactly made them turn out this way? To be frank, the two of them had very few things in common, but I could strangely feel that there was a similar ‘essence’ at their very core. But… I couldn’t really grasp what that essence was. And… it was making my heart itch.
I looked at Amano who was walking around the arcade in a great mood.
In the past… I think I had… the same expression.
I couldn’t recall when that was, and what I reacted to. But Amano’s smile stirred my heart so much because I felt the same way in the past.
Amano seemed to have found a game, and tugged my sleeve.
"Uehara-san! Let’s play that one next! Please!"
“Ah? Whatever, really now, which game is it─"
As I grumbled even though I wasn’t really against it─ I suddenly noticed the prominent figure of a beautiful blonde girl in my field of vision. I only saw the side of her face, but that was obviously the pride of our school, the school idol Tendo Karen. She was out of place in the arcade, and there were players who ended their games because they were staring at her… What was going on?
And from the way Tendo was looking around in search of something… To be frank, I got the gist of the situation, so I decided to tell Amano who had not noticed Tendo yet.
"Hey Amano, look over there─"
Amano interjected with a nervous voice. I was wondering what was the matter and noticed he was looking behind me… At the entrance of the arcade. I followed Amano’s gaze─ and standing there was…
A group in Otobuki uniform walked harmoniously into the arcade.
I took a look, and saw that they were the classmates who usually hangs out with me. The five of them were Daiki, Masaya, Shiyouji, Mika and Reina.
My body stiffened on reflex. Thinking about it carefully, there was nothing to be ashamed of, I was just hanging out with my classmate Amano… But I couldn’t stop my reaction in that instant.
However… that reaction was enough for a gloom to cover Amano’s smile.
… Before the five of them took notice… Amano turned his back to me before I could say anything, and left with his head lowered.
“B-Bye, Uehara-san, thank you for today."
I wanted to stop Amano, but it was too late. He passed by my side, and went in the opposite direction from the five of them, heading briskly for the exit into the back alley.
Me, who could only watch him go in a daze; Amano who walked away before my eyes with a pained expression; And the beautiful blonde girl who couldn’t speak to him in time.
As I stood there, looking at the exit Amano left from, the voice of Masaya and the others came from behind me.
“Yo, what a coincidence, Tasuku! We just finished Karaoke! At that place I told you about!”
“T-That’s right… that one huh.”
“Yup, that one! Their staff is just as bad today… Hmm? Oh right, where’s Aguri? She isn’t with you today?”
“Y-Yes, she is meeting someone else today…”
“I see. So you are playing here alone? What’s wrong, why are you acting in such a lonesome wayso lonesomely!?”
I wanted to refute him, but everyone was laughing together with Masaya, so while my words were still caught in my mouth, Masaya kept talking to fill in the gap.
“Alright, anyway, we went to sing karaoke today too. And it ended just like last time─"
As I listened to him recount his boring karaoke adventure, several emotions twirled in my heart. Especially…
Why did that Amano… ran off all of a sudden…!
With self reproach, regret and anxiety all mixed together, my anxiety burst forth first.
I cut off Masaya.
“Sorry, I have something urgent! Bye!”
“Huh? Ah, I see. Bye?”
The group of five including Masaya were all stunned, and I passed by Tendo quickly, heading straight for the entrance where Amano left from. After coming out of the shop, I went to the back alley that had barely any pedestrian. I guessed the direction Amano would go if he was going home, and ran towards the residential zone with my bag in hand.
Damn it! What am I doing! Ridiculous! What am I thinking!?
I couldn’t organize my feelings at all. Did I want to apologize to Amano? Vent my temper at him? Not just that, I didn’t know if it was appropriate for me to chase after him without any plans.
But… I just didn’t want to keep this suppressed emotions in my heart!
If I go on like this, I would become just like my middle school days! Not able to squeeze out an ounce of courage, not daring to make friends, unable to tell my true wishes to my parents, just like that time!
I tripped and almost spilled a bucket in the restaurant, but I still dashed into a dark alley where there wasn’t many pedestrians.
After sprinting for about a minute and reaching the corner of a building, I finally found the depressed back of my classmate.
I couldn’t hold back and dashed over with a shout. Amano trembled, then turned his head towards me timidly. When Amano saw me approaching with ragged breath, he tilted his head in confusion.
"Huh? Uehara-san? W-What’s the matter?"
Amano also jogged towards me. I walked to his front, then kept quiet for a moment to regulate my breathing… Then I glared at him and asked:
"Why did you flee?"
“Huh? F-Flee? It’s not that exaggerated…”
“You did flee.”
Amano laughed sheepishly, but my attitude remained forceful. Amano’s mood turned sour too, and he overtly showed an unhappy face.
Silence fell between us… a moment later…
Amano couldn’t take it anymore and averted his gaze. He then said in a humble and gloomy tone, as if he was talking to himself:
“Well… It must be troubling to spend time with someone like me… And you are a normie…”
The instant I heard him say that, I grabbed Amano’s shirt and pulled upwards.
A rage that could boil my blood was stemming from my guts.
I finally understood. What I thought of this fellow… This classmate…
I despised him to the point of feeling sick.
“Erm, ugh… What… are you… Uehara… san…"
Amano moaned painfully, but I didn’t care, pulling his face close to mine.
The complicated emotions I had towards Amano─
I lashed it all out on him without any semblance of order.
"Stop your bullshit, you damn hikkikorimori virgin! Who do you think you are!? Saying things like normie! Don’t use that word… Don’t think you can brand everyone with a term like that! You understand!”
“What… are you… saying…”
The groaning Amano didn’t seem to get what I was saying… Even I myself didn’t get my own words. But once your emotions spill forth, it would gush out like a broken dam, and wouldn’t stop before all of it had been emptied.
“If my life right now seem fulfilling, it’s all thanks to the effort I put in! Because I used to be a bespectacled nerd, and only worked hard to change myself after entering high school! Your life is unfulfilling because of your own doing! Am I wrong!? At the very least, I don’t think I should be branded with your discriminatory term like everyone else, Amano!”
"I am not… discriminating…"
“Don’t you dare say you didn’t! Listen up, you definitely thought ‘instead of spending effort to build up pointless relationships, it is more meaningful to spend my days happily playing games’, am I right!?”
“... T-That is…”
Amano’s face turned a terrible shade of green, his blood wasn’t flowing to his brain… but that was definitely not the reason why his face became like this.
I relaxed my right hand that was grabbing his chest, and continued:
“Yes, your idea isn’t illogical. That’s all that I can agree with you. Because I also have the thinking of having fun in the moment. However, my standard of entertainment is much higher than yours. Living my youth to the fullest means that you can call me a ‘normie’. I have friends and a girlfriend. What about your high school life? You had no choice but to make the compromise that you will be happy just with video games.”
As I spoke, I asked myself: Do I have any compromises in my high school life?... I couldn’t answer, only irritation and frustration were welling up.
To shake all these aside, I focus my attention on Amano.
"… Hey Amano, you heard the children’s tale about the ant and the grasshopper?"
Amano appeared to waver slightly after I asked him that… But he still nodded, as I held on to his chest. I showed a twisted grin.
“I am the grasshopper in the story. By understanding the ways of the world and getting the main gist of it, I can have a fulfilling youth. If I run into major trouble, I just need to plead my head low and I will get to take advantage of others. Isn’t that wonderful?”
I worked hard every day in middle school, and only games gave me a little breather. But I didn’t achieve anything in the end, and I hated myself for that. Myself from back then was overlapping with the nerd before me.
"Amano, speaking of this, what about you!? Are games fun? Is that enough? Hey, isn’t your method of escapism too shabby!? That part of you… I find that part of you to be very annoying!”
The parts that resembled me greatly. Even though he was really similar to the past me… there were different parts too.
Amano groaned painfully.
"Even if you say this much…Uehara-san, you don’t really know me…"
"I know! I don’t need to ask too much about someone as shallow as you! Amano, you rejected the invitation that Tendo worked so hard to grant you right!? You had the chance to be a grasshopper without working for it… But you used the poor excuse of ‘differences in attitude towards gaming’ and gave it up! Even though you sounded as if you regretted it, but that’s not how you really think!... The truth is, you think you are cool for sticking to your haughty principles!”
Amano’s eyes flickered. I carried on:
“That was the same reason you ran away before my clique! You are reveling in the image of a tragic main character you moulded for yourself! To me… That part of you is something I can’t tolerate!”
The sad gaze of Amano caught my eyes… It was like looking at my past self. I couldn’t help getting too emotional.
“In the end, what is there to be serious about for stupid entertainment like gaming? How retarded. No matter how much you play, it won’t benefit your real life one single bit. That’s how gaming is… an absolute waste of time. It’s true, if you see it from that angle, I can agree with your dissatisfaction with the Gamers Club. Wasting effort on useless things like fools. Tendo looks pretty, but her reputation is getting worse because of her weird moves recently─"
And so, I talked about anything that came to mind… The next instant.
─ It was Amano’s turn to grab me by the chest.
I looked at him, and Amano’s eyes were… turned from the timid into the enraged.
Amano probably had a hard time too, but he still grabbed my chest and pulled up with all his might… and glared right back at me. I couldn’t help feeling impressed by that.
Ho? So you can show such eyes too… And then? Why are so mad? Because I called you a bum who can only be envious? Because I told you the fact that rejecting Tendo’s invitation was cool? Or…
I said these words because I had my conviction anyway. No matter how Amano refutes it, I had no intentions of giving in. And I didn’t think I was wrong.
I couldn’t wait for his rebuttal.
Amano’s right hand that was grabbing me was shaking weakly, his eyes were tearing up… At the same time, he mustered his strength in his eyes and…
Amano who wanted to say his piece no matter what─
Finally started his rebuttal:
“Don’t look down on ants!”
Amano’s words were too unexpected, I even forgot to get angry as I stared at him blankly. As I unconsciously released my hold on Amano, he leaned into me.
“I-It’s true that I didn’t put in any effort, I’m just a no lifer whose only interest is gaming! I knew that from the start! That’s why I will not refute all that! I’m very sorry! Also, I’m sorry about calling you a normie. I think it’s wrong for me to say it like that! T-To be honest…Uehara-san, I only said all that because I can’t play with you! I am very sorry!”
“Huh? T-That’s right…?”
Amano was grabbing my chest, but he seemed to be agreeing with my criticism and apologizing to me… What was happening here?
Amano continued apologizing.
“Also, that thing about ‘rejecting Tendo-san looks cool’ really got me hard! I was only aware after you said that, it really surprised me! That’s right, I am really troubled! Also, also, I think I am really crazy for rejecting Tendo-san! I messed up the chance to make friends because of my strange pride, I really am the worst! So retarded! Something is wrong with my head!”
"I-I didn’t scold you that badly..."
As Amano continued speaking, his posture got lower than prostrating, so I couldn’t get angry.
I wondered what I should do next and scratched the back of my head ─ At this moment, Amano lowered his head and voice.
"……Eh, if I take a hundred steps back, I can agree with your idea that gaming isn’t beneficial. Yes… basically, it isn’t useful at all. I know, but that is why I find it interesting… To be honest, I don’t have the chips to refute you on the point that gaming isn’t beneficial. I acknowledge that. But…”
Amano stopped here. He kept his head down, and a moment later… When he raised his head again, only his heightened determination was left in his eyes, as he looked straight into mine.
“But, I won’t allow you to look down on the Gamers Club and Tendo-san when you are criticizing gaming!”
It was a little unexpected… but his refutation that had some properness about it made me speechless.
At this moment, Amano got to the core of the issue with a gentler face.
"Uehara-san, like you said, I think the grasshopper in ‘The Ant and Grasshopper’ is very smart. I am impressed with how well rounded he is, and frankly speaking, I am really envious of that kind of lifestyle. I actually wanted to be the grasshopper too. That is only natural. But… but…”
Amano’s tone turned firm and sharp.
“No matter how smart the grasshopper is… he still don’t have the rights to look down on the hardworking ant.”
I was prepared and so confident.
However, I couldn’t refute him at all.
Amano was on a roll, as he went all out on me who was gaping like a goldfish:
“It’s fine for you to call someone who takes it so easy a bum, and I think you are right. After being admonished by you, I realized again how bad I really am. Not even an ant, I didn’t even put in the effort, so I am just a flea. I don’t have a single bit of rights to lecture you. I am really sorry. But, even… even so!”
Amano who didn’t stutter at all at this moment moved me with his sincerity.
“Even though we are talking about games, such unbeneficial things! When you are criticizing me and games, you shouldn’t look down on those who put in their heart into one single thing… You shouldn’t criticize Tendo-san and the members of the Gamers Club!”
Oh no, not only couldn’t I rebuke him, I completely agreed with what Amano said.
Correct. At the spur of the moment, I lashed out too hard at everyone, even though I was just feeling frustrated at Amano. Even if Amano gave in and accepted my criticism, I didn’t need to defame Tendo, the Gamers Club and games in general too.
As I was feeling dejected, Amano who was still grabbing my shirt showed a gentle face, and continued with a warm voice:
"Especially Tendo-san, she is a really nice person. She actually invited someone like me twice. It goes without saying that she is beautiful, she is gentle, can get things done and is talented in gaming. Even though Tendo-san is very smart, she went out of her way to study in Otobuki in order to join the Gamers Club. To me, someone like her is just like my first love─ No, I mean someone worthy of respect. That is why, even though I accept your criticisms towards me…”
Amano paused momentarily, looked at me again and said:
“ I want you to take back your words about Tendo-san and the Gamers Club.”
Even though Amano appeared a little timid, his honest eyes were filled with even firmer conviction.
As Amano stared at me with such eyes… The sense of frustration I bored towards him that had been haunting my mind disappeared.
Ahh… What the hell, this guy… Is completely unlike the old me. Even more than the old me… No, even more than the current me, he...
I sighed and gently pushed away Amano’s already loosened hand from my shirt. After patting at the crease, I apologized.
“... I was wrong. I apologize for saying those things about the Gamers Club and Tendo… Erm, and also… I feel the same for the things I said about you. All this… was just me picking a fight out of nowhere. Sorry about that.”
I bowed, and Amano waved his hands in a panic.
"Uehara-san… N-not at all! Not one bit! Everything you said about me is my fault!”
I was the one apologizing, but Amano lowered his head instead and turned fidgety… I can’t stand him, this is really demotivating.
After my mood changed, I decided retort with a joke.
“But someone who rejected Tendo’s invitation don’t seem to be in the position to say anything for the Gamers Club.”
My words made Amano open his eyes wide. He then scratched his head with a blushing face.
“Ah, y-you’re right! Eh… Well… Erm… T-That’s…”
The sight of Amano scrambling to find an excuse made me laugh. When Amano saw that, he also laughed in relief… Eh, what the hell, it wasn’t a big deal after clearing up the issue. Amano wasn’t pretending to be mysterious or behaving strangely, he was just a normal classmate of mine. What was I so anxious about before this?
After laughing for awhile, I asked: “Then…”
“I’m heading back to the arcade, what about you, Amano? Why not join us…”
My suggestion out of the wish to atone and a little bit of consideration made Amano smile awkwardly.
“Well, that bar is too high for me. And I have games I want to play at home, so I will go home for the day.”
“I see… Well then… Erm, see you at school.”
“Ah… R-Right! See you at school!”
Even the normal farewell from a classmate made Amano smile from the bottom of his heart… Damn, I still couldn’t get use to him, it was too cringey for me to look.
I turned and walked towards the arcade.
But a few steps later…
I heard Amano’s voice from behind and turned back. He was some distance away and seemed to remember something interesting, and was snickering.
I was a bit hesitant, but I still asked Amano why he was acting so weird, and he said with a smile:
“I am laughing about the meme of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Uehara-san, you came up with this metaphor after thinking for long, and talked about it arrogantly as if it was a grand idea. But it didn’t fit at all.”
“What the hell? Hey, are you cruising for a bruisin─"
“Think about it yourself.”
I was so embarrassed that I pulled up my sleeve and wanted to go after Amano, but he just smiled deviously… And told me the reason.
“In order to be with your friends and girlfriend, you have worked hard. That is the complete opposite of the grasshopper who indulged in the effort of others─ Uehara-san, you are actually a super serious and cute ant."
I stopped moving. Amano dropped a ‘bye’ and left.
But I remained there dumbfounded. And then…
"…Ha, haha… I see, I am still an ant huh… Hahaha."
A strong urge to laugh well up, and I laughed out loud like Tidus.
… The strange thing was, I felt the me from the middle school days was laughing along with me.
"… Alright, and next..."
After laughing for a while, I turned with the most comfortable mood in recent years, and went back the way I came. After about 10 metres, I turned at the corner of the building ─ And…
… I ran into a blonde beauty hiding in the blind spot of the building ─Tendo Karen. But she didn’t even noticed that I was right beside her, as she looked at a certain direction with a dazed expression as if she caught a high fever.
I followed her gaze… And it seemed to be the direction Amano left in… Hmm.
Ahh~~ Oh no. I saw an incredible scene...
I immediately realized how ‘serious’ this was, and grabbed my nose.
After all… The way she looked… Anyone who saw her would…
Hey, our school idol has fallen completely in love...
A pure girl with a red face and sparkling eyes, watching a boy leaving was standing right there.
Tendo probably followed behind me to find Amano. Her objective was to persuade him to join the Gamers Club of course. However, she happened to witness my spat with Amano. And then…
She saw Amano, who rejected her invitation, caring so much for her and the Gamers Club, and became like this.
I never expected to see such a dramatic love story that was so obvious from a glance. Well, it wasn’t that couples like me and Aguri was the norm, but in this day and age, love would happen in a plainer way. To think our school idol would be the exception from the norm…
I admired this rare scene for a moment, but I couldn’t bear leaving the dazed Tendo in the dark alley and leave. So I went and spoke to her.
Tendo only came to her senses when I placed my hand on her shoulder. After recognizing me, she used her famed smart brains to understand her situation… She blushed immediately and shouted at me:
“I don’t have any special feelings for A-A-Amano-kun!”
A wild Tsundere in love has appeared! And she wasn’t aware about her feelings yet! … How idiotic.
“Ah, right~ I get it~~ Congratulations~~”
After responding nonchalantly, I bowed and prepared to leave─
“W-Wait a minute!”
─ My collar was grabbed all of a sudden. I choked and coughed.
But Tendo didn’t make any show of concern and continued:
“W-W-What did you mean by you get it? Why are you congratulating me…?”
“Cough cough… Ahh~~ … Well, I think Amano and you are a good match.”
Tendo’s face turned even redder, and was steaming like a boiling kettle of water. Okay, now’s my chance.
I waved and escaped in a hurry. Fortunately, Tendo didn’t chase me this time… Phew.
… I can now empathize with Amano, and understand why he didn’t look very happy about being chased by a stunningly beautiful girl. That girl is really troublesome, more so than Aguri in some ways.
I slowly walked towards the arcade with my arms crossed in silence.
And so, I decided on something when I reached the arcade.
Alright, I will do all I can to bring them together, and tease Amano along the way!
─ I had another new entertainment in my fulfilling high school life.
After parting ways with Amano, I went back to the arcade and chat idly with Masaya and the others. Just when I felt it was time to split, Aguri suddenly came. I was surprised, she then took my arm and explained:
“I finished meeting my friends, and was wondering if you would be here!”
Even though the teasing eyes of Masaya and the others made me feel awkward, I still answered reluctantly… The instinct of women scared me sometimes. I didn’t have any experience in affairs, but I caught a gist of how terrifying it would be in the future.
Aguri joined the conversation for a while, but it was getting late, so Masaya and the others went home a short while later.
As for me… Aguri pleaded with me to ‘play one game! Just once okay!’, and was dragged to the crane game machine by her.
I felt unmotivated.
“Spare me… Just how much money did you think I was forced to spend in the arcade today…”
“Hmm~~? What, did you catch a plushie for someone other than me?”
Aguri puffed her cheeks suddenly… Huh? It was rare seeing her look jealous. After all, she could say something like Tendo and me being compatible so casually. Hmm?
I felt a little hesitant, but I still took one hundred yen from my wallet and explained:
“No such thing, I was just wandering around the arcade and playing games at random with some guy.”
When Aguri heard what I said, she exclaimed ‘huh~~!’ and reacted as if it was a pity.
“I want to see! I want to see Tasuku play all sort of games!”
“Huh? Aren’t you always watching? Why are you saying that now…”
I inserted the hundred yen coin into the crane game machine… but Aguri was still angry.
“Ughh~~ … You played games… with someone other than me…”
… She’s in a bad mood today.
That’s a rare sight. Aguri usually smiles all the time, and didn’t think of anything like an idiot.
… But that’s true, my emotional ups and downs when I was with Amano might be wider than when I was with my girlfriend Aguri. Thinking from this perspective, I could sort of understand why she was jealous, but I didn’t explain the situation in so much detail.
Frankly speaking… Why am I dating Aguri…?
I don’t dislike Aguri, and find her to be cute… But was that enough? I had absolutely no intention of getting into BL, but after the emotional fight with someone who was just a classmate, I felt a bit weird that I didn’t tell my girlfriend about this.
I inspected the crane game machine. Aguri probably wanted another version of the weird cat I got her the other day. I planned to use the tag hooking trick, but I had to be careful.
As I checked the machine… I had some time on time, and tried asking Aguri:
“What is it~~ adulterous Tasuku?"
She was still angry. Did she take the wrong medicine today? I couldn’t care less, and continued:
“I want to ask… Just what did you see in me, that prompted you to confess to me?”
Aguri seemed to have forgotten about being angry and stood there in a daze. Oh right, this might be the first time I talked about this. I was a bit bothered when we started dating, but I felt embarrassed about raising this topic myself. When we got to know each other, we were too casual about it, and I lost interest in asking about this.
After devising the plan to catch the plushie, I started pressing the controls carefully. First would be the vertical axis.
“The reason I fell for you? Hmm, I never told you?”
Alright, the vertical axis was just as I wanted, next would be the horizontal axis…
I sneaked a peek at Aguri… She didn’t seem to be thinking as usual, and just like Amano who was playing games earlier, she had a dumb smile on her face. Her mood seemed to have recovered after talking about love… What a simple girl. She probably fell for me because my looks suit her taste anyway.
I shift my focus back to the crane machine, and thumbed the horizontal axis button gently.
“I fell for you because you are cool!”
See? In the end, it was all thanks to me changing my image and making it into the high school social scene. Looking at it this way, it was proof that my efforts was worth it…
I was happy that my prediction was on point, and felt disappointed in some sense. I pressed down on the button to move the mechanical arm… Alright, just a bit more, and it will be right above the target─
“Because back in middle school, you were really cool when you helped me catch a plushie!”
The arm completely pass over the plushie and moved to the side. Aguri protested: “Ah~~ What are you doing, Tasuku!"
As for me, I felt nothing about wasting a hundred yen, and looked at Aguri blankly.
Aguri lectured me angrily for being useless, but I just asked her in a mutter:
“You and me… Did we met in middle school?”
When Aguri heard my question, she turned her gaze to the crane machine, and answered vexingly and nonchalantly:
“We did. Ah, back then, I had black hair, braids and wore round frame glasses, a plain girl completely different from now! But you also changed, so we are the same!”
A plain girl with black braids? I… helped her caught a plushie?
Right… Now that she mentioned it…
That’s right, I think such a thing did happen. In the summer of my third year in middle school. In order to get away from the pressure of preparing for entrance exams, I ended up playing crane games somehow, and caught a plushie… But if I brought something of that size home and my mother found out, I would get in trouble. I was worrying about it when I saw a plain and cute girl who was obviously not used to the arcade staring at that plushie. And so I…
Aguri turned back to look at me, and continued with a smile:
“Since that day I have always~~ liked you. After that, I will visit this arcade to look for you every now and then. When you occasionally visit this arcade, you would focus on playing one game, and then go home. I like the way you were the most.”
Aguri said it in a relaxed manner. However, I was the opposite of her, my brain felt as if it was knocked heavily.
After all… After all, this girl… the one Aguri likes… is not the me right now…
“I knew we entered the same high school, but you became so cool when I visited your class. I then asked my friends, and heard that your preference leans towards frivolous girls… So I worked hard to change my image. Ah, but I really like the way I am now anyway.”
Hehe─ Aguri was still smiling like an idiot.
Her smile made me… made me─
─ For some reason, I felt very ashamed, and couldn’t look at her directly!
My heart was pounding so fast! I covered my mouth with my hand, and averted my gaze from Aguri. But I couldn’t shake away the image of her smile from my mind!
What is this? What is this! Why am I so nervous about a girl like Aguri, that my heart is on the verge of exploding…!? S-She had her eyes on me since middle school? She liked me… since that time? She fell for the real me? … A-Aguri would do that?
"Tasuku? What’s wrong～～?"
Aguri asked as I fell into a daze. I sneaked a peek at her.
… It is gripping my heart!
Oh no, what is going on? W-W-Was Aguri’s face that lovely!?
I didn’t understand how I interacted with her in the past.
In order to escape from Aguri, I had to leave this place.
“T-That’s enough for today! Y-You should go home early today!”
“Huh~~! Tasuku, aren’t you going to see me home?”
“Y-Your place faces the shopping district, it is not dangerous at all even if you walk back at night! Bye!”
I turned my back towards Aguri’s unhappy voice, and left the scene hastily. I walked on the street briskly, trying to cool my burning cheeks.
─ I walked like this for some time. On a whim, I looked at the reflection of myself on a shop’s glass window, and…
A figure who looked dazed with blushing cheeks stared back at me, just like Tendo earlier─
In other words, that was a reflection of a pure youth who had fallen deeply in love.
After the turmoil on Friday, Saturday and Sunday went by and it was the morning of Monday.
Because of various reasons, I went to school with dark circles under my eye and waltzed lazily into Class 2F. Masaya and the others greeted me energetically: “Morning!”
I stifled a yawn and replied: “Morning~~” went to my seat and placed my bag on my desk.
─ I then cast my gaze to the corner of the class, locking eyes with Amano who was playing a portable game console.
I hesitated momentarily about what to do, and that guy seemed to be worrying about me unnecessary, and shifted his eyes back onto his console. I got mad when I saw Amano act that way.
… Alright, I decided.
Shiyouji was about to move away from my seat as usual, but I stopped him… And then, under the confused gaze from the five of them, I walked towards Amano. Not just Masaya and the others, the entire class was watching my strange move… And so, I placed my hand onto Amano’s desk a little forcefully.
Amano looked up in surprised, then removed the earpiece connected to his console. I said to him with a smile:
“Yo, morning Amano.”
“Morn… Morning, Uehara-san."
At this moment, Amano seemed to realized the reason why I was unhappy, and smiled awkwardly with an “Aha…” as he scratched his face.
“B-But for me to greet you out of the blue cheerfully… will be weird right? I have my image too…”
I sat on the back of the empty chair before Amano and answered: “That’s true.”
“It’s true that It will feel unnerving if you greet me jovially.”
Amano looked as if that was a heavy blow. In fact, Masaya and the others were watching my interaction with Amano a little waveringly, and the atmosphere in class seemed to be affected too.
Sigh, can’t be helped.
Even I became like this after Tendo’s visit, it couldn’t be helped for Amano to be in the spotlight. I felt awkward and thought I did something I shouldn’t have, but Amano showed me a wildly happy smile.
"But thank you, Uehara-san. I was really happy that you were willing to play games together with me!"
I felt a sense of salvation from his pure, Aguri-like smile.
At this moment I seemed to understand the common point between the two of them.
For them… the thing they love deeply is right beside them.
Amano has games; while Aguri has…
"? What’s the matter, Uehara-san? Your face is really red."
“N-Nothing! F-Forget that, I have something to ask you…"
"Huh? Ah, okay? W-What’s the matter…?"
Amano straightened his back a little nervously… He probably thought I will say something serious again… That made it hard for me to say it out too.
I turned silent for a moment… Staying like this won’t do either, so I made up my mind to ask Amano:
"… I can’t clear the Paradigm of Fantasia’s chapter 5 boss…”
"Hmm… Ah, I see!"
I glanced at Amano from the corner of my eye. He was all smiles… unbelievably bright. Amano leaned his entire body forward.
“You can’t win by using normal method at that part!”
"So the story is scripted to lose? Eh, the game ends normally after I lose though…”
“No, not that, you can’t win if you don’t use the moves in the correct sequence.”
“Hmm?... Ah, I get it! The story did mention that a little!”
I couldn’t help placing my hands onto the table. Oh no, I want to try it out soon! Basically, this is an RPG I had been staying up at night to play! After finding out the way to clear the level, I didn’t feel like attending classes anymore.
Amano was smiling very happily.
“That was hard to decipher. Actually, I was forced to check the online guides too.”
“Ah~~ I thought about checking it online, but I feel that I would lose if I did. I won’t feel hesitant if I check it once… but this is my first playthrough.”
“Yes, I know! You will be spoiled if you check the guide in some places!”
“That’s right! Even though the story wasn’t mentioned, there are cases where the name of the dungeon itself is a spoiler!”
“Exactly! I really wish the guide writers will be more considerate, although the ones reading it are partly to blame too. Basically, there are times when you come across spoilers in the midst of searching for the guides to clear the level.”
“There is! For example, searching the terms online and you got the results of ‘character name + betray’!”
“That happens too often!”
Amano and I had a blast talking about video games. However, when we noticed that our classmates were getting a bit rowdy, we cleared our throats a bit shyly… Hmm, strange?
I turned to the side, and there was a beautiful blonde girl leaning into the classroom and watching us. She was gritting her teeth vexingly as she looked our way.
Haha~~ Tendo probably gave up on inviting Amano to join the Gamers Club, and naturally thought from a high position: “Shouldn’t I chat with Amano who didn’t have any friends about games?” And when she reached the classroom, the position of ‘game chatter’ had been taken by me, that’s probably it… Our school idol is really interesting.
"? Uehara-san, what’s the matter?"
"Ah, it’s nothing, Tendo is here again…"
Amano looked at the classroom entrance after I told him that. Tendo left in a panic, and Amano stood there dazed.
“Eh… W-What was that just now? Could it be… Tendo really hates me?”
Seemed like he was still concerned about rejecting the Gamer Club’s invitation. I couldn’t help snickering, and Amano looked at me with his head tilted.
“Eh, it’s nothing. I think both of you are very interesting.”
“N-Not at all! You are actually taking pleasure over my misfortune! I made Tendo-san mad, I-I have to apologize to her…”
Ara, that won’t do. I had to… I had to make things more interesting!
“Ah, no need no need, ignore Tendo. Just leave her alone before she find you to talk on her own.”
“Ah, no need no need, ignore Tendo. Just leave her alone before she find you to talk on her own.”
"Uehara-san, are you being especially strict towards her all of a sudden?"
“Huh? No, rather than me being strict, it will be more effective to make her a bit more anxious…”
Amano was still confused. I laughed quietly and stood up.
“Eh, don’t mind that. Well… Bye, Amano.”
"Ah, right. Bye bye, Uehara-san."
After Amano sent me off with a smile, he turned back to his game console happily again.
“Ah… Eh～～ Hey, Amano…"
"? Hmm? What is it, Uehara-san?"
With my back to Amano, I rubbed my neck and said as if I just thought of something.
… Actually, this was the thing I really wanted to talk about… But it was really embarrassing.
After a moment of silence… In order to not let Amano realize this was the main issue, I asked quietly:
“Can I ask you things about games next time?”
I turned my head a little to peek at him. And… Amano showed an absolutely blissful smile, similar to the one he had when he was playing games earlier, and then nodded firmly.
“Yes! I welcome that warmly! Let’s chat next time, Uehara-san!"
With a wave, I returned to Masaya and the others… In the end, we were still the same as usual. I spent my time noisily in the center of the class, Amano still played games by himself in a corner of the room, our relationship was awkward, not even friends. Aguri was my girlfriend, that part had never changed.
The same for games, I didn’t give it any exceptional evaluation. In my heart, my interaction with friends and other entertainment still had far higher priority than games. Amano and I were different.
“? Tasuku, what’s with you?”
“Huh? What are you asking?”
When we were chatting as usual, Daiki asked me all of a sudden.
He was usually quick witted in some places, but he was looking at me baffledly right now.
“Eh, you seemed to be a good mood today. Did something good happen?”
“Good? No, nothing great… Ah.”
“Something came to mind?”
“Yes, I got it. Even though it is just a trivial matter.”
“? What happened?”
Daiki asked with his head tilted, and...
I replied shyly:
“I have been thinking recently that games are pretty interesting.”